Sunday, August 26, 2012

Forty Day and Forty Nights

2012 08 25
Voula, Greece about 10 miles out of Zea Marina, Athens

Look just above the furling drum
you can see the shear in the foil.

A couple of days ago I restarted our little Garmin 76 handheld GPS, the one we use to feed position information to our AIS receiver.  When it boots up it's default screen shows the distance to the last waypoint selected on the GPS.  In this case the waypoint was Bayfield, Ontario.  The straightline distance from where we were then to where we live was just a hair under 4,900 nautical miles.  

At our average boatspeed underway of about 5 knots more or less this means we are 40 days and 40 nights of nonstop sailing away from home.  In the biblical use the term stands in for "a long time".  In nautical terms it means we are far far from the comforts of home. 

Closing on Athens where our broken furling will be replaced by the very pleasant and attentive Eleni Kafetzidaki at Kafetzidaki Rigging and Sails, there is a bit of euphoria onboard.

Today we removed the foresail from the furling.  It is the first day since the damage occurred that the wind has blown less than 25 knots.  At 0900 there was no wind and we took this as confirmation there would be none.  Luckily it turned out we were right.  

As we expected the sail did not just come down.  The foil had been torqued from base to masthead when it sheared near the base and nothing would run up or down the foils without persuasion.  The foils did not permit the sail to slide out of the luff grooves not did the twisted metal even permit the halyard swivel to fall along its length.  

It required destructive intervention by me on deck and artful dodging by Connie at the masthead to persuade first the sail and then the halyard swivel to descend the forestay to the deck.  Connie always goes up the mast (either I pull her up or she pulleds me) and sorted out the problems in short order.  

We are very lucky to have friends to pass on good advice, and even luckier to have friends who knew Greece so intimitely as to recommend a good repair facility.  We are happy with Kafetzidaki and we have not even met them.

With the furler replaced, which should take a day, we sail south, rounding the Peloponnese westward thence north along the Ionian coast of Greece.  Hopefully we will see some of the Ionian islands, maybe as far north as Corfu.  Sailing friends on Life Part 2 were there earlier in the month and gave a thumbs up.  

Then we cross the Ionian Sea east to west making for Italy and Sicily and our winter home of  Marina di Ragusa.  Air tickets are booked for departure October 15, returning April 15 or so. 

It will be good to get home.  This has been an active and very full summer, one heck of a ride so far.

We still have a month available and we are looking for action, just time limited action please.   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Watermakers in the Land of No Stuff

2012 08 25
Palau Fokaia, Greece (about 20 miles south east on the mainland)

The Harbour at Palau Fokaia
Too shallow for a keelboat to enter
Secured on anchor at Palau Fokaia, which appears from our guides to be the last viable anchorage east of Athens, we are situated just at the mouth of the harbour here.  Keelboats draw too much to enter.   

Our experiences along the Peloponnese and in the Cyclades have prompted us to consider acquiring a watermaker.  Long term cruising of these parts of Greece require it.  Facilities in the Dodecanese seem to be better, more real marinas and such, and we have no idea as to the rest of the country.

Intermittently reading an online guide to constructing our own watermaker (it is intermittent because the Vodafone dongle link keeps on dropping out) I come upon the following line:

When you go to the hydraulic supply shop to buy your hoses and fittings

This is just too funny in a sad and pathetic kind of way.  I know of three good hydraulic supply shops within twenty minutes of Lucan Ontario.  I doubt there is one in Athens, not one that will just sell me the parts I want.  My quick google for hydraulic supply in Athens produced twenty replies for Athens Georgia, Athens, Texas, Athens, Tennessee.  Nothing on the first page for Athens Greece.  

We are back in the land of no stuff.  

asides:  There is a good do it yourself watermaker site done by a German sailor called Dido's Watermaker found at but even this guy had to buy his pressure vessel and membrane in the USA.  He provides a list of German suppliers for the rest of the parts.

If you are interested, I have found that Danfoss, a Scandinavian company that made the redoubtable Danfoss fridge compressor, is selling a high pressure pump suitable for watermakers.  Danfoss have a good rep on our boat.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Yanni's Bamboo Restaurant: Maybe Milopota Beach's Friendliest Place

2012 08 24
Somewhere off the Greek Mainland about 20 miles from Athens

How Could You Not Go Into This Restaurant
Probably?  What, "My Pizza is pretty good but maybe someone has better"?
Truth in Advertising cracks me up
Meredith had settled into a nice spot off Mylopota Beach on Mylopotos Bay.  Greece's nightmare Meltemi were blowing hard out of the north and we were waiting for a die down so we could resume our trek North to Athens.

Canadians will understand when I explain being pinned down due to wind as being the same as being snowed in in a big storm.  Cabin fever is a serious risk.  Luckily we found Tico Mira.  Then we found Yanni and Vangelis and Demetrias and a table full of the most fun people we have met in the entire Mediterranean.

Walking the beachfront our first night we came upon the sign above in front of a subdued cafe, Yanni's Bamboo Restaurant.  The "Probably" on the sign got us.  We had to go in and meet these people.  

You may wonder, as did we, why a Greek restaurant would give itself a South east Asian name (Bamboo not being a particularly Greek phenomenon) and advertise Pizza as its signature dish.  There is no explanation other than the marvellous eclectic mix of personalities that co exist at Yanni's Bamboo.  In we went.  The restaurant itself is pretty calm: a nice open dining area with a trellis overhead covered with bamboo curtains to provide protection from sun.  (there being no need for protection from rain in Greece's uber dry summers)

It being a slow night, we had an opportunity to talk a bit with the waitress.  

Tico Mira, our Bulgarian Waitress
She began with the usual polite small talk.  Were we having a good time?  Where were we from?  The usual mundanities.   We presented our boat card and pointed out our sailboat, anchored a few hundred metres off the restaurant patio.   She was interested but we ascribed this to politeness.  Boy were we wrong.

Our pizza came, and it was, as advertised, pretty tasty.  As we were tucking into our second slice a great bear of a  man dressed in white came to the table.  Introducing himself as Yanni he explained he was the owner and chef of the "Bamboo Restaurant".  "Was it true", he asked, "that you sailed that little boat  all the way from Canada to my restaurant?".  

Instantly we were friends.  It was two hours before we headed contentedly back to our boat after a great visit with Yanni, Tico Mira, Yanni's sons Vangelis and Demetrias, and a couple of people at a table of regulars in the restaurant whose names they never offered but who treated us like family.   

That night we learned Tico Mira, our waitress, was from Bulgaria.  Every year she left her husband and two teenage sons back home to come and work in Greece for the summer.  She would earn more than a year's salary in Bulgaria by doing so.  Over the summer she lived in a tiny caravan Yanni provided her in the back of the restaurant.  

Tico Mira, Demetrias and Yanni (in the background)
For the rest of the week we ate or drank at Yanni's often.  One night the kitchen opened late.  Yanni came running in, stopped at our table to chat for a second.  He was soaking wet.  He had been fishing for the night's menu.  With a laugh he told us "Tonight the fish is fresh!".

Yanni's son, Vangelis, a common name here, was enjoying his last summer of freedom.  He explained that in September he entered Greece's military for his mandatory service.  We discussed at length the challenges to Greece's border security and in particular the continuing troubles between his country and Turkey. 

Demetrias, younger brother of Vangelis, was learning his brother's job at the family restaurant.  When Vangelis left for the military it was expected that Demetrias would assume his duties.  Demetrias proudly accepted the challenge.

The Pizza was Probably the Best on Ios
The Squid was Unbeatable - and Fresh!!
There was a table of regulars at Yanni's and they too adopted the weird people from Canada.  Suggestions on what to do and see on Ios and where to buy the freshest fruit and vegetables and what beaches we must visit came in an unending flow every night we were there.  "Don't go to Homer's Tomb" they urged.  It is a pile of bricks and a sign that says Homer is buried there.  "Who knows who is buried there?" they laughed.  For us it is Homer.  But only for us.

The BC versus the BUG (Big Ugly Guy)

2012 08 23
Kolona Point, Kythnos, Cyclades, Greece 

It Looks So Peaceful But There is a Serious Bug Problem

We are making our way to Athens, uphill of course; not a trip we planned to take  but on Tuesday a nice company will replace our furler for us.  All we have to do is pay for it :(

It will give us a chance to visit Athens which we look forward to.  

Yesterday was a treat.  After eight hours of slogging upwind into 25 to 30 knot Meltemi and their attendant waves, we made Kolona Point on Kythnos Island, a picturesque and protected stop on our journey from Ios to Athens.  Four other boats were dumb enough to believe the 15 knot winds forecast for the trip but having company in the blender we travelled did not seem to help our moods.  On arrival we found ourselves wet, salted and exhausted.  

The Budget Committee claimed first dibs on the shower which was a special treat because the diesel had warmed the hot water tank and so it would be a hot rinse.  

Or it was until  a big (65 foot) motor yacht roared by us in our anchorage close enough to vibrate the glass of water I had set on the salon table down below while my wife showered.  The short hairy barrel chested skipper dropped his anchor about 20 metres in front of us and was backing down to set the anchor.  

Unfortunately the captain, entertaining six laughing and drinking guests in his massive cockpit failed to notice he was backing down on to us.  Likely he did not even notice us as he bulled his way into the quiet little anchorage.

By the time I reached the cockpit I saw the monster motor yacht backing down on us and a half naked Budget Committee storming up the deck.  Ahh.  But what I heard  was even better.  Being attacked while naked in the shower didn't slow my wife down one bit.    She was tired and bitchy from a hard day on the water and now this clueless sob was going to ram us.  Not without a fight he wasn't.  

Marching up the deck she lit into the guy at full volume.  She almost got the towel wrapped around herself as she stormed to the front of the boat giving the BUG (big ugly guy) full notice that he was about to hit us.  There may have been a few references to the stability of his genetic material as well.  I stand witness to the fact that the errant skipper heard my wife.  The entire marina heard my wife.  He bellowed something and then put his motor launch into gear and moved ahead and away from us.  He was maybe ten feet off the bowsprit by then.  His wake rocked poor Meredith mightily.

Not ten minutes later the guy figured he would reanchor so he motored away while pulling up his own anchor.   I guess he was in a hurry to get away.  A smart man would have been.    Had I been on the receiving end of that barrage I would be found on a plane to Buenos Ares travelling under an assumed name.  

Unfortunately the BUG was truly inept.  As he moved away he did not pull up his anchor fast enough and it caught on our anchor chain.  He was travelling pretty fast.  

When he grabbed our chain he met an immovable object, our anchor, which was well set.  Unfortunately our boat was on the other end of the chain.  When the guy grabbed our chain he was moving fast enough to yank his boat around thirty degrees or so.  

What he did to our boat was interesting but I more felt that rather than saw it.  At that point in things I had pointlessly returned belowdecks.  The BC however had been trying to resume the shower that had been interrupted.  The shower she had earned by dint of fighting headon winds and seas all day long without a single complaint.

To describe what ensued I will use an outdated term from the cold war.  We used to have a state of nuclear alert which we used to inform our fighting men how close we were to nuclear war.  DEFCON 3 was the trigger point.  That is exactly the term I would have used at that precise moment. 

By the time I got back to the deck the paint on the motor yacht was scorched from Mom's acerbic comments.  It did not help that the owner of the motor yacht had installed a hood ornament on the front of the motor yacht, you know: blonde, built and dumb.  The insolent thing was stamping her pretty  little foot demanding that we release her anchor "AT ONCE".  

You got the picture.  This idiot (and a cockpit of 6 people laughing and drinking) has just pulled up our anchor, almost thrown a naked Budget Committee overboard, grabbed our anchor and now stands petulantly demanding that we stop interfering with her boat.  

This while we stood on our boat looking at her anchor, which was about 8 feet out of the water, holding our anchor chain in its flukes.  The hood ornament took the position that this was our fault and that we needed to stop interfering with her anchor immediately.  

My wife  explained the situation to her and enumerated the ways in which the woman was too stupid to be allowed on a boat let alone to operate heavy machinery.  Your mother was wearing a towel.  The hood ornament almost swallowed her plump collagen filled lips.  Apparently she had never been spoken to by a contractor's daughter.

Once on deck I gave some instructions to the BC who, still dressed in her wet towel, ensured that the morons on the motor launch did exactly what I asked her have them do.  (I had the guy on the motor yacht drop his anchor until it was just touching the seabed then we motored ahead slow taking up our rode as we did so.  As we got close to the other boat our chain lifted off his flukes and we turned slightly and backed away a few feet allowing him to take up his anchor.  It was not as pretty as it sounds but it worked)

In five minutes our anchors were separated and the other boat took off in a cloud of diesel soot never to be seen again.  We reset our anchor glad to see the last of them.  

Definitely we were the show of the day.   And the BC was in fine form.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Our Tips to Better Enjoy a Cruise of the Peloponnese, Saronic Sea and Cyclades

2012 08 19
Posted from Mylopotos, Ios, Greece

Greece is the bar none best place to sail of all the places in the Med we have visited.  The Dalmatian coast (Croatia, Montenegro etc) and Italy/Sicily have not been visited by us yet.

The Cyclades are not set up for cruising sailors.  It is a charter destination, created for people who want to fly in, pick up a boat that has been fully serviced, full of fuel and water and stocked with food and head out with a week's supply of beer, a charter company map showing where they are allowed to anchor, a cut down main and tiny little gib.  When it is over the charterer hands the keys back to the charter company with no need to fix what is broken, packs his dirty clothes in the duffle and flies home carefree.  For this type of sailing the cyclades are fantastic.

This post is not for those guys. Chartering may be the best way to sail Greece for a week or two but it is not for us nor the people whose company we keep.

Cruisers approach Greece differently.  By the time they arrive in Greece their boats have been well used and even hard used, they need to provision, find fuel, parts, food, wash their clothes.  They need to deal with officials and find their own way around places.  

Knowing a few things about sailing our bits of Greece can help. 

Because the Cyclades are a charter based sailing destination:

Fuel is hard to arrange
Water is even harder to arrange than fuel
provisioning can be a challenge
there are absolutely no laundromats
chandlers are rare and cater to tiny little power boats.  Parts can be got by ferry but repairs if you need professional help is 100 - 150 nautical miles away

Boat charterers do not need any of these things.  Somebody does it all for them except for food and they spend every night in a taverna.  Besides you can always find beer.  

1. Fuel 

Fill your tanks at every opportunity.  If there is fuel buy fuel.  The only fuel you will get in our area is by minitanker which will require you medmoor to some crappy concrete quay with rocks extending underwater and four foot lengths of rebar erupting from the walls waiting to poke holes in your freeboard.

There are no fuel docks anywhere we have sailed.  Not one.  The in Kalamata and it was permanently closed.

There are not even any gas stations close to anchorages or harbours.  If you anchor in front of a town there will be no gas station for miles.  One day in Siros we decided to walk the mile and a half to the gas station.  Halfway we met a French cruiser walking back empty handed.  The gas station was boarded up.

For diesel: bring full tanks, fill  your deck jugs, sail everywhere, conserve fuel at every opportunity.

For gasoline: In anchorages with active beaches, ie. lots of watersports, there is a kiosk renting boats and giving ski rides.  These kiosks will often sell you some of their fuel or get fuel for you overnight.  The premium we paid in Mylopotos was €0.10 per litre over the gas station price.


In ten years of cruising my wife has never before said "Damn I wish we had a watermaker".  The water shortage here is that acute.  Years in the Caribbean have never reduced us to living on a five gallon jug from day to day yeet here we are.  If you have a water maker unpickle it.  You will need it in Cyclades.  

There is no water even at the quays or marinas in the Cyclades.  None.  

At Myknonos Marina, a brand new modern marina in a busy tourist port, there is no water or fuel.  You have to order a tanker.  

At Ios Port on Ios the water on the dock is unpotable.  You must order a tanker.  

At Kalandos Bay Marina on Naxos, a beautiful brand new marina in a drop dead gorgeous site there is no water and no fuel.  You cannot get water or fuel.  

At Naoussa on Paros you can buy water at the marina but the marina is usually full.  There is no water available at the short term quay at any price.  You can get fuel.

Some communities have a public water tap where you can fill a five gallon jug.  We use this in Mylopotos but it is a half mile walk 300 metres of it over sand.  Twenty litres of water is heavy.  Two hundred is unattainable.  

Water in bulk requires that you go to a marina, med moor to an antiquated disintegrating concrete pier, avoid the rocks extending out from the pier below the waterline and the rebar which has broken free from the concrete structure and order a tanker.  You can then wait the three to six hours it will take the fuel guy to show up and deal with his, always in our experience, broken delivery nozzle and pay for an amount of fuel you know is more than you bunkered.  

The most honest gasoline purchase we made was from Panos who runs the dive boat operation at Mylopotos Beach.  Panos was a cool guy, all gruff in that defensive way the Greeks have until they know you are ok.  Once they determine you are an ok person there is no one more friendly or welcoming.


We found a decent grocery in Kalamata.  That was the last in the Peloponnese or the Cyclades.  There are "minimarkets" and they carry basics but selection is poor, prices are high.  There are exceptions such as the Aristo market at our anchorage on Siros and the Proton Market at Ormos Ornos on Mykonos but they are few. 

Prices are high and in some destinations, such as at Ios or Mykonos, they are outrageous.

Bakeries are everywhere and all of them are good.  Buy your bread and pastry there not from the grocery.

Before coming to Greece stock your boat like you are crossing the Atlantic.  It will not be enough but it will see you through.


Unless you have a built in washing machine and water maker you cannot do laundry in the Cyclades.  There are no laundromats anywhere we have been.  None.

If you are lucky, as in Port Ios,  you can find a "laundry" where you have your laundry done by a woman on your behalf.  Cost is €10 to €15 for 10 kilos.  Here on Ios we must take our laundry on the bus to Ios town, leave it with the woman and pick it up late that day or next day and bring it back.  Bus far is €1.60 each way for each person.

A cruiser cannot do much about this  problem but a little washing as  you go - IF YOU HAVE THE WATER - will help.

Parts and Boatyards

There are few boatyards or travelifts in the Cyclades.  For serious work you take your boat to Athens, or to the Dodecanese Islands.  Good but expensive boatyards are to be found on Kos and Leros.  The yard on Patmos, Patmos Marine, is reputed to do good work at fair prices.  Work takes time here as all parts must come by ferry from Athens.

Parts are readily available from a variety of sources.  Internet Mail Order Services are found at

  • a German site with good selection, decent prices and good delivery, the last item not common in the common market
  • a greek mail order site with a lot of powerboat stuff and some sailboat stuff.
We are using with Kafetzidaki Rigging and Sailmakers in Athens trying to arrange a new furler and headstay for our boat.  It is nice dealing direct with the owners of a sailing business.  Their quote for installation was so reasonable we could not afford to do it ourselves.

Be warned that many Greek businesses close for the month of August.  Even sailing businesses like Kafetzidaki.  This is difficult for a North American to grasp but we have contacted too many chandlers in Greece looking for parts for this to be a rare phenomenon.


There are few.  The nicest is a little used marina at Kalandos Bay on the south coast of Naxos.  It is lovely but isolated.  No town only a tiny taverna halfway up the hill run by a very nice lady who does not speak English.  It has no water but is the first marina in Greece we found where you can tie side to and buy electricity. 

What you will find in several places are quays often used for local ferries to load and unload and for fishing boats.  Often you are allowed to tie up to part of the quay - but you must med moor using a bow anchor or stern anchor and the quays are often decrepit.  In any kind of weather we would far rather be on our anchor that medmoored crosswind to a bunch of charter guys.  

Once on the quay there is rarely anything for services beyond a taverna.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.


Tavernas are great.  However they are dear.  This is a charter economy.  The taverna owner must make his money in two or three months.  Prices are full bore north american, figure €20 with wine or beer.  Each.  Connie and I usually share an appetetizer or two or an entre and our bill is still €25 to €30.  You are not in Spain.  This is not a cafe life.  It is a tourist economy and you are the prey.  To be sure the staff are friendly and the food good.  Good times are had but it is a charter type life: good for two weeks not for a cruise.


One of the more frustrating bits of Greek geography no doubt stems from the number of invaders this country has suffered over the centuries.  Italy is the only country on the planet occupied by more cultures.  

Greeks will dispute it but the word Meltemi describing the all pervasive summer winds is in fact a Turkish word.  

For whatever reason it is common, almost expected, here for a location to have more than one name.  Sometimes the names are just spelling variations sometimes not.  For example we anchored at Ormos Kolona, also called Sand Bar Bay on Nisos Kithnos aka Kythnos, aka Thermia.  

Consider Limin Ayios Nikolaou aka Aghiou Nicolaou, aka Livadhi, aka Vourkari.  If you are using a guide you quickly learn to use the index for every entry and hope your writer was thorough and use the lat and lon from the book.  Our CMap chartplotter has completely different names again from those in either of the Greek Cruising Guides we are using.  

Sailing Conditions

In the summer you get the Meltemi winds out of the North give or take 30 degrees.  The winds are stiff but not scary.  You quickly adapt.  Many anchorages offer good protection.  

If you enter a bay or cove that opens to the North you will have to exit early in the morning - before 0730.  By 0800 the north winds have kicked up an unpleasant wave into which you must plough.  Sometimes the wind blows all night and you just cannot get out of a North opening bay or cove.  Fortunately it is really not much of an imposition to have to stay anywhere another day or two.  

With the number and proximity of islands wind direction and velocity cannot be predicted.  A couple of days ago we travelled six miles from Mylopotos Bay south of Ios Port to Manganari Bay.  Wind was 20 knots NNE when we left and 5 knots out of the south when  we arrived.  Waves are even harder to predict and you just take what you get and stop when you don't like it.

There are lots of cool places to stop close to almost everywhere.  

Long passages in Greek waters are not recommended by us.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Broken Down in Ios Town; Nothing Left to Use

2012 08 13
Milopotamos Bay, Ios, Greece

Things could be a lot worse of course.  

Leaving our lovely deserted anchorage at Kalandos Pt on the south side of Naxos Island this morning we needed to tack the headsail.  Wind was blowing about 8 knots but we were leaving the east - west straight between Naxos and the small group of islands to its south and entering the straight between Naxos and Paros which runs North/South.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out there was going to be a wind shift and in our case the shift was going to require that we reset the genoa from starboard tack to port.  

On Meredith we usually tack or gibe the headsail by furling it in all the way in on the tack it is on and then pulling it out on the side of the tack we want.  It is just easier for us.

Today as I was pulling in the furling line the whole rig tightened and jammed.  Thinking it was just a gust of errant wind that had given the sail a pull and tightened it up on me I looked up and when the sail was obviously clear bent to my original task.  Bugger.  The sail did not want to roll in.  It was close to back breaking.  Resetting the sail on port tack was typically gentle.  It left us hoping nothing was wrong but suspecting the opposite.

When jobs that should be easy are difficult to execute you always look for failed parts.  Often enough the failed parts are connected to me: tired muscles or a failed processor.  

In this case it was the gear.  The Budget Committee put her eagle eye to work and in about half an hour she had found the issue.  We had sheared the foil on the forestay.  The foil is critical: it is the part into which the sail feeds and which connects the sail to the forestay.  It is also the rod through which all the force applied to the furler is transferred to the sail allowing the sail to be rolled up.

The foil on our furler was in two parts: one part connected to the furling drum and the other, longer part connected to the sail.  It had been torn apart.

So we are now without a headsail.  This is not fatal as we still have a staysail, the smaller sail at the front of our boat and our main and of course the diesel still works.  However we are going to have to replace the furler and that will be a problem, given that we live in the land of no stuff.

Also the land of no delivery and no deals.

Friends John and Debbie from London, Ontario have a close connection to the islands and keep their boat on Leros or Kos or one of the other oses near here and we hope they can recommend a yard for repairs.  

Most likely we will just limp around Greece going 4 knots instead of six and fix the problem ourelves in the fall when we can arrange delivery.

Still afloat, still having fun, still looking for water.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Letter to Life Part 2: Η Ελλάδα είναι φανταστική

2012 08 08
Ornos Bay, Mykonos Island, Greece

Kyparissa Bay - One of the Great Anchorages along the Peloponnese

Leaving Tunisia we sailed direct to Greece planning on a stop in Malta to refuel.  As written we blew off the rude ignoramuses of Malta.  Kind of fun telling an entire country to take a flying leap.  

Then we diverted north to Marina di Ragusa.  We did this so we could pay our deposit on the winter contract and save the bank transfer fees.  The marina would not accept deposit by Visa only by transfer.  Except we went there and they took the deposit by visa with us in front of them.  Go figure.

We saved enough on fees to pay the exhorbitent marina fees MdR charge in high season.  Port Captain was not open at 1600 when we pulled in nor was he open at 0930 the next morning so we just left.  I know.  We may find ourselves in jail when we return.  But Mom's the word, right?

Now as to Greece.  We love it.  You can sail here.  Actually sail.  Destinations are many.  However:

if you come via the Corinth Canal it will cost you €180 for the 3 km trip.  This leaves you in Athens though so maybe not so bad.

If you go the southern route, which we did, direct across the Ionian from Sicily you clear in either Pilos or Kalamata.  We chose Kalamata and loved it.  Pilos sounds a bit under done yet and sort of commercial.  We have never met so many friendly people as we have in Kalamata.  Reasonably priced groceries available from the AB Store close to the marina and they deliver.  Kalamata is easy to take and NOT touristic.  It is at the head of a lovely bay, although maybe not for people from BC.  Mountains are pretty awesome to us easterners.

Our route so far has been rushed as we have been making time to get to Mykonos.  Here are out stops along the way:

Limeni Point - Peloponnese
Elafonosis Island
Kyparissi Bay - Peloponnese
Skintos Bay on Dokos Island just North of Hydra
Kolona Point on Kythnos Island
Finikas (Poseidonia) on Siros Island
Naoussa Bay on Paros Island
Ormos Ornos on Myknonos Island

Every stop was protected from the Meltemi.  Every stop except Skintos Bay had great tavernas.  We recommend them all.

Practical elements:

Sailing Environment - Other Boaters

Avoid Athens 

Any water or anchorage within a day sail of Athens is full of idiots.  Underdeveloped egos belonging on hormonal teenagers not the fifty plus morons at the helm of the boats that swarm the nice safe waters close to home.  Avoid this area unless you like immaturity by the ocean freighter full and boats roaring around like water bugs, cutting you off to prove who is the better sailor (in the opinion of the overgrown child helming the boat at a 35 degree heel).The area around Athens, down as far as Spetsai Island is or should be reserved for special needs sailors and midlife crisis victims.  If I had a four pounder on my bow the world would be missing a few retards.

Sailing in the rest of Greece is predominated by charterers.  Families and groups here for two weeks and not terribly experienced.  The charter boats are second tier: the gelcoat tired and sails worn.  We try to keep our distance at anchor especially if the wind picks up.  We have not found the charterers too interested in meeting  people but neither are they offensive.  There are a lot of families with small children which is cool.  

We have never found an anchorage crowded but often one part of an anchorage, and not always or even usually the best part,  will be jammed with boats.  We think there is a lot of follow the leader: first boat drops his hook and all the sheep follow.  We have enjoyed several lovely secluded spots while boats four hundred metres away were so tight they had their fenders out for protection.


Most marinas are inexpensive but very few have mooring lines requiring you to perfect your ability to med moor from a bow anchor.  Kalamata is an exception to this rule as is Naoussa but Naoussa is very small and was full when we were there.


There are no fuel docks in Greece.  None that we have found anyway.  Even the gas stations within walking distance of an anchorage have been closed permanently.  The only way to get fuel is by minitanker and that is a disastrous experience.  The minitankers are not in good condition and present a challenge.  The first minitanker we used had no shutoff - you had to yell to the driver to shut off the pump.  The second had notched the nozzle so the shutoff would not shut off.  He "forgot" to tell me.

Our last fuel cost €143 for 154 litres.  Not that I believe any meter on any fuel tanker.  Calibration is suspect.  Wait till you use one.  You will see what I mean.


Water is also hard to come by except at a marina and even there you must pay.   There is serious water shortage in the Cyclades and Dodecanese and they wanted to stop people wasting water by washing their boats.  A reasonable goal which they have accomplished.

So if you have a chance to take on fuel, do it.  Same for water.  We were down to 7 gallons when we got our last fillup of diesel.  Luckily the wind is so good you do not need a lot of diesel unless you are moving the boat to a schedule which we all know we should not do but all find ourselves doing from time to time.


Prices for food both in groceries and in tavernas are the highest we have paid in the Med and that is not just in Mykonos.  Prices in Greece are higher in the hot spots than they are in Canada

Avoid the Tourist Spots

Taberna Vangelis - Not worth €41
for Potato Salad and Octopus
I would avoid all the tourist spots.  Mykonos, Santorini (Thira Island) or Rhodes for example.  Mykonos where we are now is stupid expensive.  Lunch today at a nice but unexceptional cafe well off the beaten track- no drinks, no meat, potatoe salad, octopus salad and feta with eggplant, cost €41 which I figure is 4 times what we would pay in Spain.

Thira is the same.  Neither Mykonos or Thira have marinas worth looking into.  We drove up for a look at the marina at Mykonos and it is a nighmare. All the bad things written about it seem accurate.  Our anchorage in Ornos is just fine and we save enough money to rent a car to pick up our newly arriving guests.  

From here there is an hourly bus into Mykonos town but why go there: it is full of expensive hardbodies with attitude.  Swarms of hardbodies like flies on a dungheap.  They have sucked the good out of the island and ruined the pricing.

Multiple Names for Every Town, Bay and Island

Navigating can be fun.  Almost every destination has three or four names, some radically different from each other.  Santorini is called Thira Island, Mykonos is Mukonos or Muchonos.  Hard to find some places in an index.  

Currents and Meltemi

There is no doubt you are going to be shaken up a bit  sailing Greece.  Gusty Meltemi winds and conflicting currents conspire to guarantee a large percentage of vigorous sailing.  In general we travel early in the day before the sun gets the Meltemi cranked up.  We try to be into the next anchorage by 1300 or 1400.  Ahhh but we have sailed into a lot of anchorages and that is a very satisfying experience.

Watch the currents as much as the wind.  The slots between islands can give rise to a lot of angry conflict between currents and there a lot of permanent washing machine environments.  Add the Meltemi and life gets interesting.  After my blog post (why is it always after) good friends back in London Ontario wrote to warn me about the permanently angry seas north of Naxos.  If only we had known.

Executive Summary: All Good.

Greece is a joy.  Hundreds of Islands, thousands of anchorages, millions of nice people.  Lots of wind.

 If you come we will find you.  Once our guests disembark on Thira we are going to cruise around the Dodecanese and more of the Cyclades.  We will be taking it slowly.  This is the first country over here that has me enthused.  The BC is just irrepressibly enthused about everything.  I am having a very good time of it here in Greece and this is the first time I have said that about any destination in the Mediterranean.

If only it were cheaper.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Trouble in the Ionian

2012 08 07
Ormos Ornos, Mykonos, Greece

Seeing This Thing Tracking You Down at Sea Can Really Take the Edge Off
anotherwise ok day.  This was Only One of the buggers -  the Port Side Thug
About 125 miles into the Ionian sea enroute to Greece out of Hammamet we hit some bad weather.  Wind turned to 25 knots on the nose and waves started slapping us back and sucking away our forward progress.

We did what we always do in these circumstances.  We hove to and waited for the unforecast aberration to pass.  That took twelve hours.but finally the wind died.  Almost instantly the wind dropped from 20 + to near zero.  No longer hove to as there was no wind to pin us our boat started to slog about in the sloppy sea left over by the newly absent wind..  

Here was the Starboard TCU (towering cumulous)
As I was about to start the diesel so we could maintain some steerage and cut the wild gyrating of the boat in the slop the BC said to me "You better look behind you".  

Well.  The blackest sky you can imagine pinned on two sides by thundercells. The sky beneath the malevolent pavillion was that greeny yellowy tornado colour.  We battened down as best we could in the few seconds available to us, turned the boat south east and goosed the diesel.  No good.  The two Tcell pillars had us braced and we could not get out.  

And in Between they Joined their hands
Too bad the colour did not come out
All at once we felt the cold blast of air bellowing out of the port side Tcell and it was on us.  The wind went from 5 knots to 75 knots.  Just like that.  There are no more pictures.  We were sort of busy.

For two and a half hours we wrestled with the boat, winds gyrating through the entire compass at speeds alternating from 5 to 75 knots and waves at 2 metres plus coming from every direction.  It was unpleasant.

The storm materialized in all its malevolence in under a minute and  then, after 150 minutes of total physical attack on our boat it just disappeared in the same minute. 

We were satisfied with our performance.  20,000 miles under the keel is decent experience and we were sailing one of the best boats ever built for the situation in which we found ourselves.  

We worked the solutions as they presented themselves, shut down the sources of risk as we found them and everything worked out. 

Our Twenty Five Minutes in Malta

2012 08 07
Ormos Ornos, Mykonos, Greece
blowing 30 out of the North and that is in the protected anchorage

Sadly there are no photos to accompany our article on Malta.  Had we taken any they would likely have been deleted.  Here is why.

Our plaln was to head for Malta out of Hammament, Tunisia, clear in, take on fuel and depart immediately direct to Greece.  Time was running short and we needed to move the boat to Mykonos, where we now find ourselves, in only a few days.  Malta was pretty much directly on the rhum line course and we had a friend who summers there, he the owner of the only other Cabo Rico 38 in all of Europe.  While we could not visit with him long it would be sort of neat we thought to surprise him "Yes, we were just in the neighbourhood and thought we would drop in for coffee".

In many countries of the Mediterranean you not only clear in to a country when first entering but you must also clear out.  On clearing out you may be subjected to a search of your boat by government agents looking for goodness only knows what.  Tunisia was one of those countries.  

We had been warned by other boating friends who departed a few days earlier that the customs agents would attempt to extort additional baksheesh from us when we applied for our exit visas.  Our contribution to the Tunisian GNP was already high enough in our opinion so we were not looking forward to having to deal with this growing annoyance.

We were in the middle of this process of clearing out and I was me assisting the customs agent onto our boat where, in the privacy of the boat salon, I fully expected the customs agent  to request a gift in appreciation of her office's  "smooth and troublefree handingl of the paperwork".    At this point we had spent the better part of an hour with customs, sitting in three offices repeating endlessly the name of our boat and our destination and were growing weary of the bureaucracy.  It did not help that twice as we were with customs, we were approached an agitated marinero pestering us to settle our bill with the marina office.  

We had been to the office before attending on customs but our invoice was not ready and office staff suggested we tend to customs first to give them time to prepare our charges.  Not willing to interrupt our session with government we told the marinero on each of his approaches that we would be to the office when we finished.

Just as the customs woman climbed on the boat the marinero accosted me again from dockside accusing me loudly of trying to run away without paying. Tired of the man's aspersions and fed up with the unending process of clearing out I dressed the man down,  loudly and thoroughly.  As if we would interrupt a customs shakedown to go and pay him.  It was insulting.  

Having vented fully I turned back to the customs agent and we went below.  My work with the marinero was so effective that when we got below on Meredith the customs agent just raised her hands in defence and pleaded “no crazy on me ok” “No crazy on me”. I agreed I would not crazy on her.  Our paperwork was declared finished then and there and we were out of Tunisia in no time.  After we paid the marina bill of course.

Two easy days sailing saw us approaching Malta about 0200 in total dark. Not familiar with Maltese waters we were reluctant to enter until we had eyes. Things seemed straightforward but for the sake of a couple of hours (sunrise at 0400) we chose to wait for light. 

Malta consists of two islands: a main island of Malta and a smaller island to its north called Gozo.  A wide navigable straight separated them.  Our intention was to sail into the straight and make for Mgarr, pronounced Mjar, which was one of two ports of entry.  We slowed our progress to 2 knots and waited for sunrise. With daylight established we sailed between the islands and made for MGarr.  As we got underway we made repeated calls to Malta Radio to notify them of our entry.  No answer was ever received.

We entered Mgarr making sure to stay out of the way of the large ferry just leaving as we did so.

A large sign at the entrance to Mgarr instructs skippers to contact harbour control on  channel 14 and obtain clearance before proceeding into the harbour.  Calling the frequency the voice on the other end acknowledged that we wanted fuel and customs services.  "How much fuel?" he inquired.  Our answer of thirty five gallons obviously met with disapproval because, on our broadcasting that figure, the voice on the radio disappeared never to return.  On consideration we figure harbour control really runs the fuel dock and he misunderstood our 35 gallons as 35 litres.  

This is all conjecture because the Mgarr harbour control refused to communicate with us again.  The air went dead quiet.

The fuel dock in Mgarr is carefully hidden away behind a large ferry.  It is not visible from anywhere in the marina and if you do not know where it is you will not find it.  After some fruitless searching we asked a passing small fishing boat.  They motioned to a location that we knew did not have fuel because we had just been there.

Finally a guy on a sport fisher (now those guys know where the fuel docks are) got us going in the right direction.  Arriving finally at the fuel dock we discovered it was fully occupied by two fishing boats who obviously treated it as a permanent mooring.  They were tied up under a big sign that instructed mariners to “keep this dock clear at all times”. 

The Budget Committee called to one of the fishermen on the boats and asked if we could tie up to him until the fuel dock opened.  He gave her the finger.  Then his mildly post pubescent son repeated the action.  

You can only take so much bloody mindedness.  After twenty minutes of ignorance and insults we cleared out of Malta.  We had not tied up, dropped anchor or gone ashore so we felt no need to clear in with customs.  It is unlikely we will ever return.

Our visit to Malta inspired the outhouse blog.  Our friend had filled us with stories of the beautiful anchorages and great buildings.  What we saw of the buildings in Mgarr was pretty much standard beach condo.  As for anchorages as we exited the island nation we passed three anchorages none of them protected or picturesque.  Recognizing that you might think my opinion ia bit slanted let me describe one: it was under what appeared to the long tube of an industrial mill.  My how picturesque.  

Somehow it felt good to be willing and able to dismiss an entire country for being inadequate and rude.  Maybe Malta suffered a bit after our encounter with Tunisian bureaucracy or maybe it is just full of rude people.  There are too many places in the Med with great scenery and pleasant welcoming people to ever waste a second thought on a place like Malta.

Kalamata: The Cure For What Ails Us

2012 08 07
Ormos Ornos, Mykonos, Greece

Kalamata Off the Port Beam

Having been now in Greece for a week we can tell you we are not disappointed.  Certainly Greece is southern europe in all its eccentricity but it offers so much to compensate.  Sailing for one thing.  Marvellous predictable wind of more than adequate velocity.  And scenery for another with its mountains and Balkan cragginess.  And its, so far anyway, truly marvellous open friendly people. 

We have not felt so enthused by any country we have visited yet and there is so much more to see.  Certainly our view of any country is influenced by our first encounter.  It was our good fortune to land at Kalamata, an out of the way and seemingly undistinguished town.  You should hurry to get there.  It is a treat.

Intending on clearing into Greece at Pilos on the east coast of the southern Peloponnese we fortuitiously screwed up the plan.  Exhausted from our crossing of the Ionian Sea we knew we would have to enter Pilos in the dark and late at night.

In good conditions we are loath to enter new harbours in the hours of dark.  On Meredith conditions were anything but good.  The BC and I were punchy from the exertions of the Ionian storm and as evening turned to night and then to late night we were getting punchier.  Methoni a port somewhat south of Pilos offered an easy approach and a protected anchorage.

As we came within five miles of the coast the BC laced on the Q flag informing Greek officials that we had not cleared customs and immigration and we made the entry to Methoni.  Lights in Methoni harbour turned out to be very confusing at least to our bruised consciousness and diminished capacity.  There we were: two retarded people in the cockpit staring "deer in the headlights" at the harbour completely occupied with trying to match the lights we saw with those on a chart.  

We do not trust Chartplotters for close work at night and always use a list of lights and bearings to verify our position.  Our trouble was that we could not figure the bearings on the lights we could see.  After some sitting dead in the water to allow our brains to catch up we figured it out and entered Methoni dead slow.  
Fort at Kalamata

Once in the harbour the amount of ambient light was adequate for manouevering and we found the anchorage, dropped hook at the end of a clump of boats, turned on the anchor light and went to sleep.

Islands Off the Starboard Beam
Out of Kalamata
We woke to beauty we had not anticipated.  Methoni is a small settlement in a bay of islands, wonderful green foothills.  Gentle rounded hills which protected from the wind and graced the eyes.  It was a visual wonderland.  

At 0700 the wind was already blowing 22 knots out of the North, the direction we would have to travel to make Pilos for clearing in.  Setting off it took us two minutes flat to decide that was a bad bet and divert to Kalamata.

Kalamata is an odd community, named after the wonderful dark flavourful olives grown in the area.  Odd that a town would be named after an olive and not the other way around.

Coast of Messenian Gulf
It sits at the head of a bay in the Messinic area of Greece.  The bay is more of a fjiord, surrounded by mountains rising sheer and steep out of the water.  Sailors familiar with the North Channel of Canada will have an idea of the scene although not of the magnitude of the thing.  

Entering the bay gingerly hugging the coast for protection from wind we discovered the first principle of Greek sailing: if you don't like the weather just blow your nose.  Conditions will change.  And change they did with wind shifts of 90 and 180 degrees in the blink of an eye, wind velocities running from 0 to 28 in the same brief span.

All under the careful watch of the surrounding mountains.  

We did not hurry up the bay as it was all just too glorious.  And then we came on Kalamata.  Well, the marina anyway.

Kalamata marina is operated by a security guard.  He seems to be the only guy who works.  We called the marina ahead to alert them to our intentions and received a lengthy reply in Greek.  In the face of this we carried on.

Entry to the marina was straightforward.  There was a fuel dock and we headed straight for it.  It was closed.  Permanently.  The security guard, a gruff and seemingly rude man yelled at us from the dock and pointed to our slip.  "Fuel closed" he bellowed over the water.  

We made for the indicated dockspace and tied up.  The security guard was reluctant to help the BC with the bow lines and the BC sensed that it was because she was a woman.  You don't do that to the BC and the guard ended up doing a serviceable job.  

And so we learned the first thing about Greeks.  They love to present as gruff and unfriendly.  That is a cloak used to shield a friendly and fun loving personality -that so far we have found runs through every Greek we have met. The security guard made a few jokes, sold us the water connection and turned on our electric.  He then arranged for the diesel minitanker.

Formalities, customs and immigration, were a hoot.  We arrived about 1430.  Port police had gone home at 1400 so we were told to come back next day.  Had we been smugglers we had just been given the entire night to unload the contraband.  Sadly our lives are too dull to permit such excursions from conventionality and we spent the night at the local grocery provisioning for our foray to Myknonos, first stop for us in the Cyclade group of islands.

Next morning spot on 1000 we appeared at the Port Captain.  She was lovely.  She did the paperwork, chatted about Kalamata, offered advice on where to find various items in town.  At the Port Police we had to apply for a Permit.  The permit cost €20.  We don't know what it was for but it used to cost €10 so we did not complain.

Done with the Port Police, for the moment, we had to walk to Customs.  Except the Port Police captain thought it was too hot to walk all that way.  

So she drove us.  Excuse me but she drove us to Customs.  

Customs was a joy.  The customs officer was very entertaining and I suspect he used this to mask considerable ability.  At customs we had to buy a Travel Log for €40.  It used to cost €30 but since we got a break on the Port Police Permit we broke even.

Leaving the Customs building after about an hour and a half who did we find but the Port Police Captain waiting in her car.  She explained that she had to go to the tax office anyway and thought she would drive us back to the marina.  

Man this is too much.  The Port Police Captain was a tremendous advertisement for travel to Greece.

Back at the marina we had to pay our fees at the marina and then take proof of payment to the Port Police.  A full circle.

later that day riding the bus downtown we got talking to the busdriver.  He was married to a woman who used to live just north of Toronto.  In the course of half an hour we learned about his wife, his family, the trouble he had with his son who died early.  He called his wife on the cell phone and insisted we speak with her.  It was an odd but pleasant conversation.  Her invitation to her home for dinner had to be refused as we were leaving the marina.

Ok.  So we love Kalamata.  We will be back.  The gulf it rules is picturesque, the sailing is fun and the anchorages beautiful and protected.  There are islands if you want some meandering;.  And it is home to the most inviting friendly people on planet earth.

Things to know about clearing in based on our experience:

1.  You start with Port Police, then customs which doubles for immigration, then marina to pay then Port Police.

Documents you need: Certificate of Registry, Boat Insurance, Radio Licence.  

One of the questionnaires filled in by Port Police asks for your Radio Station Licence.  You all know that you need a radio licence if you want to own a marine band radio outside of Canada, right?  That includes the USA and No there is no treaty between Canada and USA that says you do not need a radio licence.  

2.  Before you leave a port you must have the Port Police sign and stamp your travel log.

3.  At every subsequent port with Port Police you must attend at the Port Police office and present your travel log on both entry and departure.  It will be stamped for both.

4. You buy a permit from Port Police for €10 and the Travel Log for €40.