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Settling down in Rhodes

November 26, 2017

View of Nisyros crater walls

It is quite amazing that it is only 6 weeks or so since we flew back to Kos and relaxed on Alixora for a week.

We planned to take a short cruise round the southern Dodecanese islands before heading to Rhodes, starting in Nisyros, a volcanic island.  The reports said that the harbour in Paloi had been improved and friends confirmed that it was an excellent place to explore.  After a final stop at the wonderful ice-cream shop on Kos harbour front and Brian making a huge stew to tide us over a potential lack of places to eat, we set off on 18th October (a month ago).

Palion, Nisyros

It was a calm day, just enough wind for the genoa, and arriving in Paloi found the municipal harbour fairly empty and water and electricity on tap – amazing.

Palion harbour

There were lots of restaurants to choose from and the first night we treated ourselves to a kind of mezes of tzatziki, gavros (little fishes) and deep fried courgette flowers – very nice!

Gavros and chips

We arranged to hire a car the next day, which was delivered with panache at the requested hour of 10am, and offering a special discounted price of €25.  We visited Emborio, a fairly dilapidated village on the top of the crater wall.


Interesting construction

It was all closed up, so being coffee time we headed to the other side of the crater to Nikia for a frappe and a visit to the Volcano museum.  The small square where we had coffee was very pretty with a small church and lots of goings on.  I could even understand some of the Greek!

Coffee stop

The museum was really interesting and taught us a lot of things about volcanos, and the activity in this part of the Aegean.  A mandatory video as we entered was amusing with funny computer generated pictures of eruptions to illustrate how and where all the islands were formed!  There were examples of all the volcanic rocks including obsidian, which I had never really seen before.  Very glassy and smooth – a bit like the flint at home.

Vulcanic activity chart

We had picked up a couple of pies, so headed to the crater for lunch and an explore.  Having declined to head down into the main crater – you could see it perfectly well from above – we went up to the smaller ones.

Nisyros main crater

They were worth the hike and there were lots of steaming vents surrounded by pure sulphur deposits.  Later this generated a few hours of research to find out how pure sulphur can come out like that – and we found out a lot about sulphur too! Eventually we decided that it just sublimes from the hot gases.

Steam venting from crater

Heather on the rocks

After lunch we moved on to Mandraki and the imposing and ancient castle – which again was the subject of futher research to find out the progress of moving from polygonal stones to square(ish) ones over the centuries.

Mandraki Castle

Mandraki, Nisyros

We passed orchards of oak trees with huge acorns – which also grow wild.  Didn’t find out what they were used for.

Huge acorns

After a further day of chilling out, we checked the weather forecast which predicted a storm on Tuesday 24th October.  Hmm.

Palion, Nisyros

So our planned gentle cruise got cut short and we headed for a night at anchor in Panormitis bay in Symi,

Panormitis Bay at sunset

then Rhodes on the 22nd  (avoiding large tankers along the way) where we tied up at the marina for one night then headed down to the A1 shipyard ready to be hauled out.  The predicted storm was the following day, so we made sure we were tied up well to the quayside.

John Tsitses, the manager said we would be hauled out on Wednesday – the day after the storm.  It isn’t advisable to take sails down when on land as you have to let the genoa at least fly free which isn’t good for the boat on a cradle!  So we got busy and took the sails off.  Fortunately there was a fairly clean large concrete apron just next to us, so we managed to get them laid out and folded up reasonably well – they are very heavy and unwieldy. Having stripped our bed, we stuffed them into the front cabin.

I had contacted the car hire place we had used before and we had also popped in to the apart-hotel we had been in last May and booked a room.  The car was delivered at noon with many welcoming hugs and we loaded essential gear into it.

While we were sorting things out, with many cups of coffee, we watched a huge day trip cruise ship being hauled out – all the slings in use.  It just fitted into the travel lift.  We then watched a smaller wooden day trip boat called Free Spirit backing into the haul out slip.  They got it wrong a few times but eventually managed to get there – not easy with these long keeled heavy boats with big wooden rudders on the back!

After getting in some shopping, dropping off the washing and paying for the car for a couple of weeks, we headed back for welcome showers and a relax.  That evening we went to Perché No, the pizza restaurant, and again were welcomed back warmly!

The storm broke during the night – we were called at 9am by John Tsitses to reassure us that Alixora was fine – the south wind was pushing us off the quay so no worries about chafing.  But, he said, another boat “had gone sailing away”!  We went down to the shipyard and put more ropes on and noticed that Free Spirit wasn’t in the slip anymore – oh dear! We later saw it stranded on the rocks in the bay just north of the shipyard.  I have written a little ditty about it and will circulate with pictures.

It was certainly a foul day, flooded roads etc.  We got our wellies and raincoats out!

The next morning we got the call to be hauled out, so sped back to the shipyard, untied all the ropes, clambered aboard and steered into the slip – no doubt taking the slot now vacated by Free Spirit!  Alixora was lifted with no problems – her bottom was very clean – even the propeller which Brian had coated in Velox antifoul we had purchased in Italy.  It had been recommended by a guy on the Cruising Association site and certainly seemed to work – despite over 2 months sitting in Kos marina!

We had chatted to another English couple, William and Margaret, who had booked to leave their small boat in the marina for the winter.  Hmm. We gave them what advice we could and they did move to one of the more sheltered areas of the marina. We went out to Perché No with them before they left.

The next few days we spent most of our time on the boat, tidying up and moving more stuff to the hotel as we found necessary, as well as watching the rescue efforts on Free Spirit!

Meanwhile, as I mentioned in the last blog, I had put feelers out for an apartment to rent.  I had had one response directing me to a guy called Antonis Ghykas who might be able to help.  Also my friend Mara had been looking for us (thanks Mara!) and found a few houses for sale that might also rent.  I met up with Mara and called the estate agent – Jasmine.  We arranged to go and see the house Mara had seen – this only two days after we had lifted out!

The house we saw had been built between 2002 and 2005, and never lived in.  It is at the stage between first and second fix – walls plastered and floors finished and huge!

Possible new house?

It is in the workshop district near the old town and the ferry port – not where we had thought of looking but actually an ideal place.  And it has a huge basement  (140 m2) for a workshop and storage – amazing.  The owner has fallen on hard times and now wants to meet us – we are definitely interested to buy it but prepared for a long wait.

Possible new house?

The same day I then got a message from Antonis to go and see the apartment he had for rent.  This time it is further south, but still in Rhodes town – not far from my Greek teacher’s house and not that far from our old apartment.

We met Antonis and saw the apartment which is above a basement apartment.  Again it is huge with 3 bedrooms, a large sitting room, kitchen and two bathrooms – fantastic and just what we wanted.  And unfurnished, so we would have to furnish it completely ourselves.  The rent is only a little above what we were paying last year, and the contract is for 2 years minimum.

Sitting room, as it was when we visited

So after a celebratory beer at the Dot café overlooking the beach we decided to go ahead and I sent off all the electronic copies of the documents Antonis needed.  The building is owned by his uncle and he seems to manage it.

The next day we got a call to look at another house – again for sale and not rent.  This time it was close to the shipyard, up the hill.  A very nice house on about 4 levels, and to be sold fully furnished.  Not really our style, so we thanked the lady (now moving to Athens) but left our contact details.


Kitchen interesting curve

We measured up the apartment that weekend and decided on how to lay it out – our bedroom at the front, the two rooms at the back for his and hers study and workshops.

My study

Brian’s workshop


The black marble floor in the sitting room looked very worn with a few holes and strange white deposits I could not remove.  Antonis arranged for it to be re-polished, sharing the cost.  And he arranged for the hot water to be routed to the small 2nd bathroom which we now use as a shower room – perfect.

So within a week we had secured long term accommodation as well as finding a house to do up in our spare time! Wow.

Without going into the gruelling detail of poring through the local 2nd hand advertisements on Facebook, looking in the large DIY and furniture stores and hunting down appliance suppliers, we have managed to get ourselves sorted out.

With the marble floor being polished we could not move in, but did manage to get a 2nd hand washing machine and a bed delivered.  Unfortunately the bed was a bit of a bad buy, sight unseen apart from a photo, but Brian did an amazing job sorting it out.

When the floor polishing people arrived, we had cleared the sitting room and watched with amazement as they brought in huge machines to grind and polish – mostly with water but there was a bit of dry sanding done – lots of mopping up afterwards!

Also I picked up a 2nd hand corner sofa, and at the last minute found a guy, Michaelis, to move it for us from a town on the other side of the island.  We used him again to collect a whole pile of stuff from another contact from my Greek teacher.  I don’t like Facebook, but it has its uses!

We splashed out on new kitchen appliances which were delivered in short order and an air conditioner/heater installed.  The guys who did that kindly moved the washing machine from the sitting room into a small utility room as well as helping enlarge the hole for the water drainage!


We got the rental agreement signed and I had to go to the Electricity office to register as a new user.  Then Antonis got us connected up – it transpires he works in IT for the council.  He has also put a broadband router into our apartment to share his high-speed connection – we are sharing the minimal cost!  Wonderful.

So over the course of about 10 days we gradually moved things either purchased or from the boat into the apartment, then moved in from the hotel on Friday 10th November.  We also cleared out all our storage from The Workshop – amazing how much was there as well as all the tools we had had sent from the UK!  And then had to find somewhere to put it all.

But our apartment has a huge amount of built in storage – just not all in the right places!  A large shelving unit in the hallway, and a hanging space.  Brian’s workshop has a massive cupboard with drawers where he is slowly filing all his tools, sandpaper, etc, plus a hanging space which is now filled with planks of wood!  My study has no built in storage, but did have a wardrobe with shelving and a small set of drawers which is perfectly adequate.  Our bedroom has hanging space, drawers and shelving.

Brian’s workbench

My work table(s)

In the small utility room there is a crawl space that extends the length of the hallway – about a metre high into which we can put stuff from the boat if we want – like fenders and other non-perishable stuff.  Possibly the sails if we can get them out again!

The kitchen was the least well equipped, but a set of plastic shelving from the DIY store has solved most of the problems, Antonis gave us a fridge freezer and we even have a microwave oven!

The entire apartment is tiled with what they call “engineered” marble – chips set in a resin base.  The walls need work, with holes where shelving has been removed, but that will wait!  The place echoes a bit so we need more soft furnishing and rugs!

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We have 3 small balconies – all rather narrow but fine for sitting out.  The back gets some sun in the morning but the front of the apartment (sitting room and bedroom) gets more from about midday.

View from the rear balconies

The area is very lush with lemon and orange trees in the back garden (we are allowed to pick them!) and many other shrubs and trees between the houses.  Most of the apartment blocks are 3 storey, so not too high.  The road is very quiet and the neighbours are all very friendly.  It is a fairly multi-cultural area – the lady next door is German and her husband is Norwegian, the lady downstairs is Dutch.  Antonis and his family live above us and a further young family live on the top floor, both Greek although Antonis speaks very good English as does the chap on the top floor.

There are a lot of pet dogs around that create a bit of a din from time to time, and Margharita and Roy (?) next door have a very loud parakeet that wakes up in the afternoons!

I did have a day off.  On Sunday 12th November I joined in a Heritage walk around the old town visiting all the mosques and being able to go inside one.  It was organised by TESA, the English Speaking Association.  Members are from all nationalities, but they have a series of events that we can attend, coffee mornings etc.  The guide for our walk was extraordinarily well informed and voluble, so much so that all the information has pretty much leaked from my head!  But it was really interesting to note that the original churches were converted to mosques, then back again over the course of the various changes of rulers!

I didn’t know that a bolt of lightning hit an ammunition store near the Master’s Castle in 1856, blowing it and a large amount of the surrounding property to smithereens Hundreds were killed.  The Italians who took over in the 1920’s then rebuilt to what they thought was the appropriate design!

The guide explained that researching the history of Rhodes is made very difficult, not only because of the many different languages in use over the centuries, but also that they are in different scripts – Arabic of various kinds, Greek, Latin etc.  He said that very few scholars can actually cover all the records because of this.  So much to find out still.  The organisation he belongs to is called Riches – specialising in researching and protecting Rhodes history.

So here we are, still settling in and a few things yet to buy but almost sorted out.  The weather (apart from the occasional storm) holds fair with temperatures hovering around 20°C during the day but cool at night.  We have fan heaters for the smaller rooms and the new air conditioner heats up the large sitting room rather efficiently!

Airconditioning/heating going in!

Yesterday I baked a cake in our new fan oven.  We are still coming to terms with the idea that we now have a permanent base, can leave things here when we set out sailing again, and even have the space to have people to stay!  It is all a bit overwhelming at present and I still have to sort out the more mundane aspects like health and contents insurance! But to have got this far in only a month is quite incredible and we feel very lucky.

Maltese Falcon anchored off Rhodes


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