The change in weather that we had experienced on our way to the Corinth Canal was to be our enduring experience for our first few weeks in the Aegean. With wind speeds much greater than anything we had experienced in the Ionian, our journey across the Cyclades to the Eastern Sporades Islands was fast and at times rather scary!
After the journey through the Corinth Canal our evening at anchor off Aigina Island was unsettled with the wind gusting constantly throughout the night, causing our anchor to drag and forcing us to re-anchor in the dark – not a comfortable experience!
After our disturbed night we set off early next morning to head across to Kavia Bay on the east coast of Kea Island, once again with winds gusting up to 30 knots fairly constantly throughout the eight hour sail. Our Greek Waters Pilot Book suggested that this would be a good place to shelter from the prevailing winds, but with the bouncy sea state we found ourselves once again facing an unsettled evening with sea swell rolling into the bay. Finding a good safe place to anchor was a challenge, but we eventually settled ourselves and awaited the evening weather with a weariness that comes from our previous night of broken sleep and harder sailing than we had grown accustomed to.
The landscape of Kea Island was mostly brown and craggy and the houses in Kavia were dull, concrete-bunker-like buildings in stark contrast to some of the beautiful and picturesque architecture common to other Greek islands we had visited.
We were both exhausted from our day of sailing and desperate to get in the water to cool off in the baking heat, but the swell into the bay made it difficult to swim around the boat or get anywhere near the beach. We were more than happy to get going again next morning after yet another ‘bouncy’ night, to what we hoped would be a more secure, harbour over-night stay.
The island of Siros was our next destination and during the six hour sail we encountered Force 7 winds gusting beyond 30 knots and big seas that threw us both around the cockpit. With life jackets on we harnessed ourselves into the cockpit, to reduce our chances of being swept overboard. With just the two of us onboard we take no chances in bad weather, both fully aware of how vulnerable our boat can quickly become in rough wind conditions and high seas. Going down below was not easy and during that passage we shared a bag of wine gums for lunch, staying in the cockpit for most of the sail.
During daytime passages I often move around the cockpit and onto the after deck to do some Yoga practice, but there had been no safe opportunity to even consider that idea for a quite a few days and during this trip it was even a challenge to remain seated! We both heaved a huge sigh of relief when we sailed into Finkas Bay on the western coast of Siros and spotted a space available for us on the quay. The wind inside the harbour had dropped enough to allow us to moor up without too much drama and we made the decision to stay put for a couple of days. Our boat had taken quite a weather pounding since we had left the Ionian and we were both beginning to feel a little weary.
Siros was a much needed break from the feisty weather we had encountered since entering the Cyclades and the shelter of the harbour enabled us to get some decent sleep. Finkas appeared to be a popular seaside destination for visitors and locals and provided a welcome respite for a very pleasant couple of days. We were able to get off the boat to properly stretch our legs and give the boat a thorough clean inside and out. We stocked up on provisions, topped up the fuel from a visiting fuel truck and at 38 Euros for two nights with power, this was a good stop!
On 16 August we slipped our lines in Finkas early in the morning and set our course for Mikonos Island. Our original plan had been to stop off on Mikonos, but with the weather looking potentially unsettled for the next few days, we decided to anchor in the eastern bay of Ayios Annas for the afternoon and then make the long hop across to Samos Island during a predicted calmer weather window overnight.
We knew we needed to cover a lot of ground in a fairly short space of time and this seemed like our best plan. During the six hour sail to Mikonos we were able to run the water maker and top up the water tanks, relieved that the water maker was behaving and consistently producing drinkable water. We anchored off the most beautiful beach with the clearest aquamarine sea and spent the afternoon relaxing, ready for our overnight passage. Late afternoon we pulled up the anchor and set sail for Samos.
Our passage through the night passed reasonably peacefully, with no more than 20 knots of wind. The sea state was still confused from harsher weather of previous days, but with few other boats around and consistent wind, we each took our shifts without any difficulty or major sail changes.
Once again we watched the sun go down and marveled at the peacefulness of sailing in the dark. During my time alone on watch I practiced my French speaking revision on my ‘Duolingo’ App on my phone and was grateful for my Apple music, spending my shift time trawling through my music library and entertaining myself with it’s stored content. I’m always amazed by the power of music and it’s effects on memory and the evening slid by very quickly as I trawled and reminisced my way through my music library. We watched the sun rise over Turkey and we both noticed the different smell of the air as we drew closer to our destination.
Samos Island sits right on the boarder of Greek sailing waters with a clear view of the Turkish coastline and after sixteen hours of sailing, we entered the harbour of Pithagorion on the south east corner of Samos, in the Eastern Sporades. The island previously known as Tigani was renamed Samos in 1955 in honour of Pythagoras, who was born there.
Pithagorion is a lively resort town and we moored on the town quay, taking the only space available amid a large number of Turkish sailing and motorboats. In passage planning we always consider a ‘plan B’, as it is not usually possible to book ahead for a space on a town quay. We were not keen to have to find somewhere to anchor after our overnight sail and were really pleased that we had arrived in this popular harbour early enough, to take advantage of another boat getting an early start and leaving a space vacant.
We immediately fell in love with bustling Pithagorian and ended up staying for three nights, renting a scooter to get out and about to explore the island. We spent a whole day on the scooter, hiking up to the waterfalls at Potami and enjoyed the breath-taking scenery of the coastline looking out to sea on the precarious winding roads through the mountains.
Our view of the islands is usually from out at sea, so it was good to view our sailing ground from the land. Whilst alongside we spent a very pleasant evening socializing with some fellow English Cruising Association sailors and got a shout out on Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2! Damian was quite shocked to hear our names being mentioned, as I hadn’t told him I had texted into the show – the look on his face was priceless! Picking up our favourite radio stations on the Wifi is a good way of getting a feel of life back home, (although neither of us misses the traffic chaos we hear about on the traffic news!).
On the 20 August with stores replenished, we slipped our lines from the town quay in Pithagorian, heading south into the Dodecanese Islands with the wind behind us at last. Over the next few days with more favourable and comfortable winds we anchored off the islands of Agathonisi and Leros before making our way to the island of Kos. We were not entirely hopeful of getting onto the busy town quay, but thankfully our arrival early afternoon enabled us to find a space alongside before the hoards of tripper boats returned from their day trips out.
Kos is a popular, crazy place for boat traffic and chaos ensues from a huge flotilla of tripper boats and a large number of visiting boats trying to come alongside. Kos town harbour front still shows damage from last year’s earthquake, with cracked concrete pavements sporting treacherous gaping holes.
We wandered around the old town and viewed the collapse of a number of historic buildings and churches, a sad sight to behold.
Kos is a very popular tourist destination and packed with holidaymakers from many different countries.
Kos town is noisy and chaotic and very obviously geared up for mass tourism, with a vast array of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. As a provisioning and respite stop for us it was not quite so useful – I spent almost an hour trawling the harbour front and back streets for a bakery and somewhere to buy some fresh fruit and veg before we left, but returned to the boat empty handed. We were more than happy to get away from Kos town, with a heading for Kamares on the south of the island for a quieter night at anchor. There were just three boats in the wide, open bay when we dropped our anchor, so we were pretty ticked off when a German boat arrived early evening, setting their anchor down up close to our boat, causing them to drift back dangerously towards us and ignoring our attempts to alert them to the problem. Their close proximity to our boat thankfully didn’t cause any problems overnight, but we had to wake them up bright and early next morning when we left, as taking up our anchor brought us almost up onto their boat. Three bleary-eyed, German guys in their underpants stumbled up on deck, having had a rude awakening from a blast of our horn, when they didn’t respond to my shouts. Sometimes ‘needs must’ and all that!
From Kos we sailed to Island Tilos, mooring up in the small harbour of Livadhia on the east coast of the island.
A picturesque, laid back, beach fronted town, with a decent selection of tavernas and shops – Livadhia had to make it onto our list of favourite places of the summer. We found a small, family run taverna called ‘Nicos’ and had the best meal of the trip. The menu comprised of traditional Greek and local, home-cooked specialities with house wine served in clay pots!
We stayed three nights on Tilos, catching up on washing and other domestics, chilling out on the beach, swimming in the beautiful clear sea in the bay and planning the rest of our passage to Rhodes.
Our three night stay on the quay cost us just 18 Euros, an absolute bargain for such an amazing place.
We slipped our lines and said goodbye to Tilos on 27 August, heading to Island Simi, which was to be our last stop before Rhodes, where we would be meeting our daughter Emily and her boyfriend Flo. During the very comfortable five hour sail we ran the water maker, making sure it was still behaving in preparation for having extra bodies onboard.
As we sailed into the quiet bay of Panormitis on the south west corner of Simi, we saw a huge sea turtle and although very tempting to grab a phone to try and get a picture, it was more satisfying to just watch this magnificent creature swimming around the boat. There is something very magical about being at sea and getting to see so many amazing sea animals, they are often seemingly curious about the boat as we are sailing along and this affords us some wonderful ‘up close’ experiences.
After an incredibly hot but peaceful night at anchor we set our course for Rhodes marina on the north east tip of the island, to await the arrival of Em and Flo flying in from their home in the South of France.
Our pilot book warned that the marina was subject to lots of ongoing works and this was very evident as we rounded the breakwater.
The marina was situated in the middle of what looked like a building site, but we were grateful to have a safe mooring for the night with an opportunity to provision up and get ready for our new crew.
Our journey into the Aegean through the Cyclades Islands to the Dodacanese had been quite a shock and such a contrast to our experience of the Ionian and we were looking forward to what we hoped would be calmer, more comfortable sailing time ahead. We hadn’t made any firm plans for the next month with Em and Flo onboard but were looking forward to planning our passages together and to some new sailing experiences.
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