The last two months have flown by and with more than 1100 nautical miles under our belt, we have covered some substantial ground since we exited the Corinth Canal at the end of May.
Life at sea has found it’s natural routine and with a rough plan in mind we are continuing to map out the route of our summer experience week by week. Our journey has taken us from the Saronic Gulf down into the Western Cyclades islands, up to Athens, through the Evia channel and into the Northern Sporades.
The temperature has continued to climb and the weather conditions in the Aegean Sea have given us plenty of exciting sailing and with a few major mechanical repairs thrown in for good measure, we are well and truly entrenched in the summer sailing season.
After exiting the Corinth canal we sailed south along the east coast of the Peloponnisos towards the island of Poros, with two anchoring stops en route in Korfos and Epidhavros. After our early start to go through the canal. It was good to have a couple of quiet days to sit down with the Pilot books and plan how we were going to fill the next couple of weeks before heading back up to Athens.
With virtually no wind we motored to the Island of Poros, taking in the spectacular view from the sea of the very attractive main town built into the rocky slopes of the island.
We took our time to check out the harbour and managed to find ourselves a space on the north town quay. Luckily we had arrived early enough to avoid the afternoon rush and we settled ourselves in for a couple of days. Poros is a very busy and poplular tourist town with many day trippers arriving from Athens by ferry and a multitude of yachts of all sizes coming alongside and anchoring in the wide bays around the harbour.
We spent a couple of days exploring the town, soaking up the atmosphere and taking advantage of the opportunity to restock supplies. On our last night we walked up into the back streets of the town and found a lovely little family-run taverna, away from the noisy bars of the town quay. The food was basic, the wine was incredibly cheap and we were entertained by our very own ‘Zorba the Greek’ – perfect!
Our next destination was to be to the island of Milos, 70NM south in the Western Cyclades via an overnight passage, allowing us to take advantage of the favourable winds predicted. We both love longer passages and the daytime hours passed peacefully. We managed to sail for most of the day, taking the opportunity to test out the Gennaker and it’s new furler in the lighter winds.
The larger sail is a magnificent sight when flying from the front of the boat and a dedicated furler allows us to bring the sail in more efficiently when we need to. Large sails can become quickly overpowered if the wind changes without warning, so it was good to know that everything was working properly.
The sunset that evening was absolutely stunning and we dropped our anchor in the large bay of Adhamas, Milos, the next morning.
This was to be an anchor stop for the next couple of days as we waited for the wind to drop again, to give us the favourable conditions we needed to begin the journey back north through the islands. We both pottered around the boat and waited for the weather to change.
Light southerly winds arrived as predicted and gave us a steady reach north to the town of Kamares on the island of Sifnos.
We were both keen to get ashore and stretch our legs properly, so were very happy to get a space on the small town quay. Chaos ensued that afternoon as the wind picked up again and a couple of other boats came in and went out several times before safely tying up on the wall. The regular ferry traffic in and out of the harbour added to the docking challenges and created a very lumpy swell, which continued through the night. Kamares was a very pretty, picturesque seaside town with lots of little shops and a lovely beach and that evening we went ‘off piste’, when we found an authentic Italian Pizzeria – naughty but VERY nice!
Continuing the journey back north we had a sunny sail to the island of Kithnos for two very chilled days at anchor – one day on the east coast in Stefanos and the second on the west coast in Apokriosis.
Both were lovely anchoring spots and I got my first proper swim of the season, with the sea temperature having climbed to 21 degrees it was the perfect way to cool off without the worry of ‘cold water shock’!
Keeping an eye on the weather we decided to continue the journey back north as the favourable southerly winds were shifting to the regular ‘Meltemi’ northerlies, common in the Aegean during the summer. We wanted to make sure we could safely get closer to Athens as planned, so we headed back across to the coast of the eastern Peloponnisos. Over the next few days we spent a couple of nights anchored in the bay of Ermioni and sailed back towards Poros with winds now picking up and gusting up to 30 knots. The high winds challenged everyone trying to anchor in the bays around Poros and after an exhausting day we eventually found ourselves a safe spot early evening. When we are on the move, one of the most stressful elements of journey planning is making sure we have somewhere safe for the evening, whether at anchor or alongside. When picking up the weather each day we have to make sure that our intended destination will be protected from whatever winds are due overnight and sometimes we have to make last minute alternative plans, especially if the weather changes or we can’t find space. Damian’s favourite part of the day is the sound of his ‘anchoring beer’ opening – it signals that all is well!
We arrived into the main harbour of Aigina the next day to the welcome sight of our friends on ‘Dream On’, who took our lines and welcomed us in. Having not seen any of the MdR crew since we left the Ionian, we were very happy to have company. The next day ‘Tickety Boo’ also came alongside and we had a lovely couple of nights alongside catching up.
On 13 June we slipped our lines Aigina bright and early to make the journey north to Zéa Marina on the Attic coastline. I was due to spend a couple of days in Athens on a Yoga course and Damian was going to strip down the windlass motor, so with the windlass out of action we needed to be alongside with fixed mooring lines. As we motored into the major shipping channel towards the Athens coast our AIS stopped working, we think it was overwhelmed by all the traffic around us – I counted more than 40 AIS targets (vessels) in the approaches to Piraeus and luckily the majority of them were at anchor. As we got closer to the entrance of the marina we called the marina on VHF and were escorted to our berth. The marina was absolutely enormous and I had not seen so many super yachts in one place since last year when we visited Porto Montenegro!
The sun was baking hot and there was no wind, so we were really grateful to get alongside onto shore power and get the air conditioning on. I was heading into Athens the next day so Damian got to work straight away, as he needed my help to dismantle the windlass.
We took a train into Athens and the city was incredibly busy with tourists – there was so much to see.
Damian left me to my course and went back to the marina. I had a couple of days in the city, Yoga training with Scaravelli inspired teachers Robin Stamm and Alexandra Sotiropoulou and Damian took on the windlass.
It was strange being apart after the intensity of the last couple of months onboard, but a good opportunity to become a Yoga student again and I took the opportunity of being in a hotel to have a couple of blissfully long showers and dye my hair!
After 5 days the windlass had been completely rebuilt with a new motor and we had walked the length and breadth of Athens. This included a hike to the local hypermarket – Damian is on a constant hunt for English sausages and although the search for sausage was fruitless, we did manage to score English Cheddar!
We set off once again towards the Evia channel and after the busy time in Athens it was wonderful to be back at sea, with the wind in our hair and the peacefulness of the sea all around. We spent the night anchored under the Temple of Poseidon in the bay of Sounion, in the company of MdR boats ‘Dream on’ and “Jace’ and after having walked for miles around the streets of Athens, we were happy to stay onboard and admire the temple from the boat, peace was restored.
The steady journey up into the Evia Channel gave us the opportunity to explore some beautiful bays including those of Xero, Panagia and Erétria.
From Erétria we travelled north and traversed another spectacular suspension bridge in the approaches to Khalkis and moored alongside in the marina, to complete the process needed for our journey through the Khalkis Bridge. The bridge only opens at night and on arrival we had to report to the Port Police to present our boat papers and to find out what time the bridge was expected to open. We then had to go to the Port Authority to pay a bridge fee – 36 euros for us. We were told to ‘standby’ on VHF at 9pm and we would be advised of our slot to go through the bridge.
After a wander around the town and a major supermarket visit, we returned to the boat and moved out to anchor ready for our evening crossing. At 10pm we were told to prepare our boat and at 11pm we were given permission to move towards the bridge, along with at least 8 other boats from the anchorage and from the quay before the bridge.
The currents through the bridge are pretty strong and in the dark the scramble to get through quickly to go alongside on the other side of the bridge created a slightly chaotic experience. We had already made the decision to continue on to an anchorage further north and we pushed on in the darkness, anchoring in the early hours of the next morning.
After a bumpy night at anchor we awoke to a grey, overcast sky and with wind gusting to 29 knots we had a feisty sail northwest to the big bay of Kólpos Atalantis. The watermaker had decided to stop working, so our next stop had to be an alongside to take on water and give Damian the opportunity to take the watermaker apart. We had planned to head for a harbour in Orei, but when we arrived the harbour was full and we spent the rest of the afternoon investigating other options before eventually finding a space on the quay in Ahilio on the mainland. It had been another long day, so managing to find somewhere safe and well protected was a huge relief.
Ahilio was an unexpected surprise, a very pretty, quiet little town (or so we thought), with a few tavernas and bars and a couple of little minimarkets. Then early evening 4 huge tripper boats returned to the harbour from their excursions into the Northern Sporades with music blaring from their speakers, it certainly looked like a good time was being had by all. Literally hundreds of people spilled out onto the quay as the boats docked, but thankfully the crowds dispersed relatively quickly and peace was once again restored. We spent a couple of days alongside whilst Damian stripped the watermaker down completely and eventually got it going again.
Having had the boat for 12 years means that Damian can tackle pretty much anything that goes wrong – mechanical or electrical and he is kept busy with the challenges of regular boat maintenance and impromptu breakdowns – he’s a useful skipper! I cleaned the boat from top to bottom and took the opportunity to do all the washing….
With the watermaker fully operational we were ready to push on once again and the next part of our journey would take us through the Northern Sporades, up into Northern Greece and the ‘three fingers’. We are very aware that time is passing by incredibly quickly and as I write this BLOG, we are reconsidering our plans for the rest of the summer. Our original plan was to head for Turkey, but now we’re not so sure. Greece offers such a vast cruising ground, with so many islands to explore and we have heard of some cruisers coming back into Greece year after year, managing to find new experiences every season. We love the Greek Islands and the feel of our liveaboard life on Tahnee Mara and are in no hurry for the journey to end just yet. We both agree that the whole idea of our adventure was to change the pace of our lives, to stop for a while and breathe and that’s what we are going to do…..
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Yoga is still very much a part of my life and I am very excited about my November retreat in Cornwall (just a couple of spaces left) and my new Yoga retreat venue in the South of France next June, please check out my retreat section and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further information.
Thanks for joining us on our sailing adventure, always good to have you along.