Mamma Mia

We decided that as we couldn’t do much on the boat whilst they were painting the decks that we would go away for the weekend. We set off around 1030 on Friday towards the Pelion coast in the north, between Volos and Thessaloniki. The beaches there were supposed to be gorgeous with small villages that somehow have been forgotten. It would be at least a five hour drive but on the toll roads so pretty easy driving.

Our hotel for the weekend. The blue dot is Olympic Marine

We arrived in Volos around 3pm having stopped a couple of times for the loo and changing drivers. Volos is famous for being the city where Jason and the Argonauts left on their quest and since then has become a thriving commercial port. Consequently, the town is a working rather than a picturesque place but the town quay reminds us of Prevesa in the Ionian where people stroll in the evening with bars and restaurants. Seems a good stopping off point to the Sporades or further north.

Volos Town Quay

We then had a lovely drive up to our destination on the other side of the peninsula near to Milopotamos. The drive up and over the mountain was wonderful, if a little hairy at times!

Overlooking the Gulf of Volos. Even the animals need shade!

The Hotel Faro is really off the beaten track with the last 600m unpaved road at a steep decline but so worth it. Set into the hillside with its own sea pool. We had booked a table at a nearby taverna, Aggelika, which was 100m away. What the map didn’t tell you was that it was on the next headland so it was actually a descent of 100m followed by a climb of 100m. However, the freshly caught dorado was exquisite. Washed down with the usual half a litre of house wine (€4) and the journey back didn’t seem as bad.

Sunrise from our balcony

We woke up to an amazing sunrise and decided to stay at the hotel and relax. The sea pool was something special – crystal clear, turquoise water with no sea weed, jellyfish or sea urchins. Bliss.

The sea pool at Hotel Faro. Can you spot Liz?

However, Liz couldn’t keep still for too long so we went for an explore as there looked to be a secluded beach about a mile away on another headland. As we walked down the track a couple of cars passed us but I definitely would not have wanted to put the suspension of our little Kia Picanto to the test! We were rewarded with a gorgeous beach with very few people on it. We were even able to find our own secluded spot to while away a couple of hours.

Limnionas Beach

Sundowners from another beach bar next to the Aggelika taverna, Cafe del Mare, and then dinner at the hotel. We really didn’t want to leave our idyll which was also a bargain at €50 per night for the room. Breakfast was €7 each with pretty much everything on the menu homemade from the yogurt, cheese, jams and honey. On Sunday we thought we’d explore the coastline further north before wending our way back to Lavrio. This meant going back into the mountain and then back out to the coast so 4km as the crow flies took an hour by car. Still, we were treated to a number of cute villages, including Damachouri where its harbour was used in the 2008 Mamma Mia film.

The temporary pontoons used in the film have long since gone

As we had a long drive back, we were back on the road by 1pm. We were amazed to see acre upon acre of apple trees all being harvested and transported down the mountain to waiting large trucks. We must have counted at least 50 pickup trucks in about an hour. Once we were at Volos and off the mountain roads, the driving was easy so we were back at our apartment by 7pm. There is a restaurant just south of the marina and on the way to Cape Sounio called Artemis that we found in 2019. We thought it was different and delicious back then so we were keen to try it. As it’s near to the end of the season they are only open at the weekends so Sunday evening was our last chance to eat there this time. They did not disappoint. The Prawn Saganaki and Risotto Veruna with prawns and truffles were both scrumptious. A perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

The restaurant Artemis did not disappoint

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The saga of the solar panels and other electrical issues

Back in March 2020, Jo was supposed to come out to Greece to oversee the removal of the old and the installation of the new solar panels. We thought that it would be a few days work at best. That visit got postponed for obvious Covid related reasons like not being stuck in a country without being able to get home. The new solar panels had been delivered to the yard in Autumn 2019 and had been left on the boat. The new ones are smaller in size but still provide around 200W of power. The old ones had pretty much stopped working, which meant that we could only rely on our wind turbine to generate power when we were at anchor (and you all know how much we love to anchor!). The new ones had been found at the Düsseldorf Boat Show in Jan 2019 as we wanted ones that had the wires underneath thereby not been a trip hazard as they are mounted on the stern deck. We found a manufacturer, Sunbeam, who did just that and were made of tough material so that they could be walked on etc without being damaged. Our old ones, to be fair, had been installed in 2012 and had given us really good service the entire time we have been away from the U.K.

The old panels being removed

We realised that the old ones needed removing and the deck that they covered making good. We had had the decks painted back in 2016 in Malta so at the very least we would need some non-slip paint. However, once the old ones were taken off it was clear that there had been some water ingress into the GRP so that it would need repairing before it could be painted. So, instead of taking a day or so to prepare for the installation, it took four.

Nearly ready for painting
First couple of coats on

Whilst they were doing all of this, we couldn’t do a lot ourselves on Nimmie as there was so much dust from the prep and sanding as well as us getting in the way so on Tuesday afternoon we took ourselves off to a nearby beach for some R&R. It was lovely just to soak up the sun and chill for a bit. When we got back to the boat on the Weds they were still painting so we went back to the beach!!

Hard life at Pounta Zeza beach

By Thursday afternoon, they had pretty much finished the painting and had done a really good job in matching the original, faded off white. We did wonder whether they would get it finished by Thursday as high winds and some rain (yes, rain) was forecast but not only did they finish the work but they then washed the boat down! We had that on our list to do but thought it wasn’t worthwhile doing it until all the work had been completed.

Earlier this summer we asked the yard to check the batteries as they had had very little charging since we left the boat in August 2019. We should have thought about it earlier as batteries tend to self discharge around 2-3% per month so over 22 months that could mean between 44-66% discharge. Not good for the batteries at all. The yard inspected them and found that the domestic batteries were ok but needed charging and the engine starter battery needed replacing. This was duly ordered and installed in July. They then turned the engine over to check she hadn’t seized (as had happened to friends of ours) so we thought all was well. We checked the batteries today (Thursday) and found that two of the domestic ones had blown and tried to start the engine but to no avail. Even though the boat is out of the water, you can usually start them and then shut them down within 20 or 30 seconds without any damage. A conversation will be had with the yard as it means that once the solar panels are installed, there could be a fire risk if the blown batteries had any charge through them.

You can see the middle on each of these two batteries is split

We popped back in the evening to see how the navigation and anchor lights were. It seems that the nav lights at the top of the mast and the steaming light (bright white light you have on when you are motoring at night) aren’t working but the anchor light is so, hopefully, it’s just a question of changing the bulbs. Turned out after two trips up the mast that the steaming light was working but just didn’t have enough current going through with the batteries not getting charged. As soon as the solar panels started to charge the batteries, all was well. Don’t think that’s the issue with the nav lights as they are LED. Anyway, back to the solar panels. There was more painting being done on the Friday morning so we went off to the Pelion region for the weekend (see separate post Mammia Mia).

Newly painted deck and new solar panels

By the Monday morning, things were looking good on deck and they started to fit the new solar panels. The wiring was going to be a bit more complicated as they suggested having having an additional Victron MPPT Controllers rather than just the one we had. This meant that the two 38W panels could run separately from the larger 100W panel. By Tuesday evening, the wiring was complete although they had made a mess of the aft cabin headlining but at least Liz was on hand to sort (headlining being her speciality and the heads/toilets mine). They popped back on the Wednesday to reconnect a couple of ceiling lights that had taken down – Lord knows why. This gave us a few hours before our flight back to the U.K. to clear up the boat. Or so we thought.

Jo decided to check the instruments were still working given how long it had been. The chart plotter and radio seemed ok but an error message came up on the other instruments – it needed a code but wouldn’t accept the code we had. The old instruments we had, had an inbuilt theft protection that meant you had to enter a code if one of them was stolen. Anyway, after multiple tries, Jo rang Raymarine in the U.K. and it seems that the instruments have been corrupted. Not sure whether the battery failure was the culprit or just old age. They’d been installed from day one so 1998! Now we need to decide whether to just get secondhand replacements of a slightly newer model that doesn’t have a built in code or splash out on a whole new system.

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What a relief!

We have finally made it out to Greece to see how Nimmie has fared over the last two years. Having both been doubly vaccinated, we had our digital NHS pass, filled out our Passenger Locator Form, purchased our pre flight tests for the return journey and ordered our Day Two tests for back in the UK. We flew from Luton and it was amazingly quiet. The plane only had 80 passengers so there was plenty of space and it all felt very manageable. Landing at Athens airport, we had to show our vaccination passes and Passenger Locator Form before standing in the ‘All passports’ queue to have our passports stamped. This means that our entry into the EU/Schengen area is documented and timed as we can only spend 90 in any 180 days in Schengen. This isn’t going to be a problem this year but it does mean that we will have to be careful how long we spend in Europe going forward. Even visiting our families in Norway counts!

We had landed around 8.30pm and once through passport control, we waited for our luggage which included our repaired watermaker that we thought we may have to prove wasn’t new and subject to Greek VAT and import duty. The joy of Brexit! In the event, there weren’t any customs people around so we headed off to pick up our hire car and make our way to the AirBnB apartment we had rented for two weeks. Lavrion is about 45 minutes from Athens airport on the SE tip of Attica near to Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon. It’s a fairly lively town with bars and restaurants, even a summer cinema, so we felt we had a good base for our stay. It was lovely to be able to sit out at 11.30pm having a welcome beer in t shirts and shorts.

On the Thursday morning, 16th September, we went to the boatyard in Olympic Marine to meet with the technical department before seeing how Nimmie looked. We were very pleasantly surprised. Nimmie was very dusty (inside and out) but didn’t look too worse for wear. We agreed with the yard that they would remove our old solar panels, make good and install the new ones we had shipped out in 2020. We also suspected that we would find a few more things that had decided not to work over the intervening period.

A bit dusty but definitely still standing!

We spent the next couple of days checking her over and preparing her for the work to be done. It has been hot here, 35 degrees Celsius in the shade, so with no bimini up and the sun reflecting off the gravel floor, it soon become quite unbearable on the boat. Still, we carried out our normal winter and spring tasks to compile a list of jobs that would need to be completed before launching in 2022. As you can imagine, a boat that hasn’t been used in two years can have quite a few things go wrong or as we put it, Nimmie breaks her toys when she feels neglected! A number of safety equipment items had passed their due dates including the life raft service, personal locator beacon batteries, fire extinguishers. The list went on and on. Nothing that can’t be replaced or serviced but all adding to the To Do list. For those of you who have followed us for a while, you’ll remember that when we left Salamina near Piraeas in 2019, we had an unexpected passenger. A little fledgling sparrow had been nesting in our boom. When we put Nimmie to bed at the end of the season here, we stuffed a plastic bag into the boom to prevent that happening again. Over the last two years, the bag had disintegrated and made a lovely base for a new nest. This time the chick had died in the nest. However, we did manage to rescue a wild tortoise that seemed to want to dice with death by crossing one of the busy roads on the way to the boatyard.

One very lucky tortoise!

It transpired that the guy who was due to do the painting on the topsides was away until the Monday so we had Thursday and Friday free to do jobs. After working in the heat of the day, it was glorious to be able to come back to the apartment for a shower and air con. We decided that as the yard would be shut over the weekend we would go on a road trip to the more inland region of Greece where we wouldn’t normally have access to by boat. We made our way towards Arachova, the Greek equivalent of Aspen on Mount Parnassos, as we had booked a mountainside hotel for the Saturday night. This area is a ski resort but in the blistering summer sun, it’s hard to imagine! En route we visited the 11th century monastery of Osios Loukas. It is in a remote but beautiful setting and has a large collection of Byzantine art and stonework.

The monastery of Osios Loukas

We then drove up to Arachova, which was quite sweet and lively but about 30 minutes drive from the hotel so we were hoping that there would be somewhere closer to have dinner. The hotel described itself as a boutique hotel and spa and was definitely up market rustic. The owner was charming and we had gorgeous views over the mountainside. It even had its own indoor pool that was just the ticket after a dusty, hot afternoon!

Just what we needed!

The hotel recommended a taverna just down the road, called Babis, that served wonderful food. The wild boar melted in your mouth. They even gave us a glass of a local grappa type drink called tsipouro to try. Not to my taste but Liz was happy to drink both!

Wonderful food and amazing views

We decided to go for a walk up to Corycian Cave, which is where Pan and the nymphs liked to hang out according to Greek mythology. It’s a 4 hour trek from Delphi but from our hotel is was more like 45 mins as we could park the car a bit nearer!

Inside the Corycian Cave

Nice hike up but an hour and a half walking in the sun was more than enough. Pleasant enough cave but we have seen better in our travels.

Corycian Cave

On our way back on Sunday, we visited a few seaside resorts that the guidebooks mention. The nicest by far was Itea where we had waffles overlooking the harbour. Back at the apartment by around 8pm, a takeaway from the local taverna and ready for the following week when, hopefully, the deck will be repaired and painted ready for the new solar panels.

What’s not to love about Itea when they serve fabulous waffles?

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Lockdown

As we continue in lockdown here in the UK, our sailing plans for this summer are put on hold. We were supposed to be out in June and September in 2020 but with the current restrictions, June seems extremely unlikely and September may not be worth it if self isolating is still in place in Greece.

However, the good news is that we have saved 40% on our insurance as we have put Nimrod ‘out of commission’ for insurance purposes! If things change we can pay an additional premium to have her in the water. She is safe at Olympic Marine and we may well keep her there until next Spring.

What we may do is is pop out later this year to check her out and see how many of her toys she’s managed to break in our absence. There are jobs like new solar panels to be fitted. Jo was scheduled to fly out in mid March to oversee the removal of the old panels and installation of the new ones but it was evident that Greece was about to go into lockdown as events moved quickly.

However, we have completed the fact and figures for 2019. These are available here for those of you who are interested! In the meantime, we are planning our cruising for when Nimmie is back in the water.

Stay safe and well everyone

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Put to bed

The high winds continued right through the weekend and into last week so we had plenty of time to get all our jobs done and have a couple of days playing before the lift out. Monday afternoon we took a taxi across the peninsula to Palaia Fokaia, where friends of ours were anchored in the bay. Unfortunately, whilst we were sheltered on the beach, Kath and T weren’t able to leave their boat, Caladh, due to the winds so we had a lovely lunch and made our way back to Lavrion.

Archaic Lion on Kea

On the Tuesday, we took a ferry from Lavrion town to the island of Kea, the island we were making our way towards when we had our accident! We were very pleasantly surprised. The main port of Korissia was quite sweet with bars and restaurants along the front. We caught the bus up to the capital, Ioulida, which is in the middle of the island. It was similar to Lefkes on Paros with white houses and winding alleyways. From there we walked to the famous Archaic Lion made of slate from the 6th Century BC. A lovely walk and an impressive sculpture, even if it does look a bit like a Cheshire Cat! We had lunch in the lovely bay of Vourkari where all the rich Athenians sail to on a weekend. You can tell by the prices being charged in the boutique shops!

At least the lunch was a reasonable price!

Back to Lavrion on the last ferry at 1830 to prepare for being lifted out Wednesday morning. The morning was still a bit breezy with winds around 20 knots in the marina so we had one of the marina staff on hand in case we needed them. In the event, all went well and Nimmie behaved perfectly. Once lifted, she was moved to the back of the yard where she is safely ensconced until next Spring. Once again, she has looked after us superbly in all weathers. It was sad to fly back that evening, especially to a fairly wet U.K.!

Hauled out for the last time in 2019

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Home port in a storm

We didn’t manage to find a car for any sightseeing around South Evia although they did offer us a 50cc scooter but with the poor roads and high winds, we declined. However, we found a walking tour to the Demossari Gorge. This involved an hour’s coach journey along tracks and roads that were only just wide enough. God forbid anything coming the other way! We reached the start of the walk near the top of Mount Ochi and were almost blown off it by the strong NE winds. We then began our descent to the gorge. Despite being August and 35 degrees in the shade, the walk was beautifully shaded walking through trees.

The whole thing took about 4 hours as there were around 30 of us with varying levels of pace and included a couple of stops. The last one being at some rock pools where we had our sandwiches and bathed our feet in crystal clear, cold water.

Rock pools to eat our lunch by

We finished the walk at an old chapel and were then whisked away in a converted van. The van could take ten people so there was a shuttle service. The way we were crammed into the van would be completely illegal in the U.K. but at least it was only for 15 minutes. We then deposited near a beach at a Kantina to get a well deserved cold beer. The waves crashing on the beach were spectacular but meant that we couldn’t swim in the sea.

Back in Karystos we treated ourselves to a meal out as we couldn’t be bothered to cook and found a busy taverna, Cavo d’Oro, down a side street. €15 each including wine – bargain. The next day we were both a bit sore but decided the best thing was to walk it off. High above the town is a Frankish/Venetian castle called Castello Rosso that was built in the 13th century. It’s now a ruin but it does provide amazing views of the bay. We sensibly decided on a taxi there and to walk back as it was going to be another hot day and there would be no shade. Near to the castle is the village of Myli, a verdant oasis amongst so much barren rock. The village has a river running through it that’s fed by mountain springs. Crystal clear and very drinkable.

The following day was Friday and we knew we needed to get back to our home port of Lavrion (25nm away) before the stronger meltemi winds came through over the weekend. After leaving the relative shelter of the harbour, we were soon flying along with 30 knot winds behind us. We only needed a small amount of the genoa (front sail) out and we were still doing over 7 knots. The wind abated a little as we drew closer to Lavrion but it was still gusting over 20 knots in Olympic Marina. However, with help from the marineros we moored up safely. We then had to get as many of our ‘putting Nimmie to bed’ jobs that were wind dependent as possible as we knew the winds would be even stronger from Saturday morning through to Monday night. This included taking the genoa sail down just as the sun was setting and the wind had died. We could then do the other jobs over the weekend in our own time, although with the long jobs list we have, it’s been full on so far! Fingers crossed that we can be lifted out Tuesday or, worst case, Wednesday morning before flying back to the U.K. on Wednesday evening – another summer sailing at an end.

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Evia ‘n’ water

We were sad to see our friends depart a week ago today (Tuesday). We quickly did a food shop as we knew we needed to get off from Paros and make our way north towards our winter berth of Lavrion as we only had a small window due to the seemingly constant strong north winds. We broke the 80nm journey half way at Stefanou on Kythnos as we knew it was a safe anchorage. It was a hot, airless day and we had to motor the entire way so a swim once we were anchored was a wonderful way to end the day made more interesting by snorkelling around the boat wreck at the head of the bay.

The next day we set off early as we had another 40nm to do to get to the Petali Islands just off the southern end of Evia. We managed a mix of motoring and motor sailing (for a change) but we found that our water maker wasn’t working. We generally ensure we have at least 250L of water spare so we weren’t too worried but it was weird to suddenly think about where we could fill up. The membrane had become blocked so the only thing to do is to get a replacement – not something that can be sent out at short notice and we only had another two weeks on the boat. We arrived around 4pm and anchored in a bay called Vasiliko on Nisos Megalo, part of the Petali Islands. It was a beautiful bay with golden sands, rock arches, turquoise water, lots of different fish and goats on the hillside. A lovely way to spend the evening celebrating Liz’s birthday. It was so lovely we decided to stay for a couple of days. The Petali Islands were once the summer retreat for royals and celebrities and are now owned by Claude Picasso, son of Pablo Picasso.

Vasiliko Bay, Petali Islands

We wanted to explore more of the island of Evia so we continued north west with the northeasterly breeze helping us along. Evia is the second largest island in Greece (Crete being the largest) and is over 100 miles long and is accessible by road from the mainland at its central point, Chalkis, which is also its capital. Evia feels somewhat off the beaten track and visited mainly by Greeks. It’s also not on any yacht charter itinerary so the bays and town quays are quieter, even in August, which is always a bonus! Anyway, we sailed as far as we could before going into the small town of Panagia at the top of a very long bay. It took us an hour to get all the way up to the top of the bay as wind and waves were against us. We were experiencing 25 to 30 knot gusts and, of course, it was at the upper end just as we were taking the sails down! As we arrived, the wind abated a bit and we motored up onto the town quay. We only had to pay for water and electricity so we filled our tanks and washed the salt of Nimmie with gusto. Panagia is a lovely place with only 100 or so permanent residents but hundreds more pour in from the daily ferries.

The ferry quay was quite close in Panagia!

It had a good supermarket, a butcher whose shop was over the meat restaurant he supplied, a public beach, bars and restaurants. Perfect for a stay of a few days. It was Friday night by now and we found out that the bars didn’t close until two in the morning so earplugs were required to get a night’s sleep. We left Panagia at lunchtime on Sunday to continue 30nm northwards to the capital, Chalkis, as we wanted to hire a car to see the island properly. We only managed to sail for an hour or so when the wind died as the middle part of the Evia channel is well protected by the surrounding mountains.

The view across the bay

We went under the new road bridge on the outskirts of Chalkis. It doesn’t seem to matter how high you know the bridge to be (36 metres in this case), you still worry you’ll hit it! We arrived around 6pm to find that the marina was full so we anchored off. The town itself is not pretty and the sea is very shallow with its own eddies and currents. It’s more like a swamp than a sea so it also had killer mosquitoes. Liz was bitten several times before we had even finished sorting the boat out after anchoring so we had kind of decided we didn’t like the place. We also weren’t comfortable leaving Nimmie at anchor for two days whilst we explored so we abandoned our plans and came back south the next day using the northerly winds to have a cracking sail back down. This time we went back to the Petali Islands but anchored in a different bay on Nisos Xero. Again, we had golden sands, turquoise water and even spotted some coral.

That brings us to today. We thought we would try and get into the other main town, Karystos, on the south of Evia and hire a car whilst we wait for a weather window to get back across to Lavrion. Another ‘lively’ sail with 30 knots of wind and building seas but once we entered the harbour all was much calmer. We just had 18 knots of cross wind to content with as we moored up. We will now stay here for a few days, tucked safely in against the strong winds forecast and try and find some transport to see this part of the island (all the cars have apparently been reserved although to be fair, there is only one car rental place in this very sleepy town!).

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Turquoise Seas and 🐢 Spotting! Guest Blog

So our trip to Greece and aboard Nimmie started well with the old crows greeting us as we stepped off the ferry in Paroikia.

As it seemed a tad breezy, it was decided that we should stay on Paros for a couple of days. A relax in the hammocks sipping a G n T followed by a beautiful sunset meal. A stroll along the seafront and a frogmarch to the ice cream parlour past the shops was the end to a perfect day!

Sunset in Paroikia

The next day was a lazy beach visit and a wander around the town at a more sedate rate which enabled some shopping to be done!! As it was still blowing a hoolie we did a road trip across to Naoussa via the medieval capital Lefkes. Naoussa is such a pretty little resort! The fish restaurant Glafkos served up a lovely afternoon meal. At this point Nimmie felt we had neglected her for far too long so off we went to Antiparos. Ben found the journey a little unsettling on her stomach🤢! The bay of St George was our destination. Completely gorgeous. Nimmie did us proud in getting there with Liz C taking the helm on the way.

We came across Windhover again (who were in Paroikia) with Bernie and Sean on board. Our time there enabled us to see more of Bernie than we had expectedl!! Caves were visited 180 years after King Otto and Queen Amalia but on the way a turtle (named Timmy) popped up his head to say hello right by us in the anchorage. So absolutely stunning to see him! A first for us! Baby Nimmie also wanted an outing so we went in search of a sea arch. Just at the entrance to the bay we went through the arch and beached Baby Nimmie for a swim.

Back on Nimmie, watching the coast line, we saw a herd of goats being corralled by a donkey up the hill to their feeding station! Our trip nearing its end enabled us to see the most stunning turquoise sea we had seen with Ben helming us all the way.

Up to this point we had given our hosts 4.7/5 on Trip Advisor. However, back in port at anchor the Moët was served! Defo a 5/5!!! Thanks Jo and Liz for inviting us. It has been so lovely being back on Nimmie with you. We don’t want to go!! Ben and Liz xx

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Just in the nick of time ….

We’ve spent the last week on the lovely island of Paros as northerly winds were forecast for the following ten days and we wanted to be here so friends could join us from the U.K. As you will have read in our last post, we could only stay in the harbour until Friday morning and then try to get back in on Sunday due to a charter fleet being based there. We used being on the quay wisely as it meant we had electricity and water so could get through the maintenance jobs, do laundry, pay the Greek Cruising tax and wash the boat as she was encrusted in salt. We also took the opportunity to hire a car and tour the island for a day. We went to the medieval capital of Lefkes with its narrow streets and lovely shops, to Naoussa in the north that had a feel of Mykonos about it and a variety of beaches with beach bars and amazing rock formations (Liz’s idea!). It really is a lovely island so there are worse places to be storm bound.

Lefkes

Naoussa town
Pretty fresh octopus
Some ancient rock formations

On Friday we knew we had to leave and decided to go north to an anchorage near Naoussa where there was turquoise water, a beach with requisite beach bar and shelter from the northerly wind. The two hours up there was a bit of a slog but at least we knew we would be able to get back the next day. The anchorage was gorgeous and not that busy as most charter boats would need to make their way back to their home ports for changeover that night. We arrived around 2.30pm and the last charter boat left around 4pm. We rowed over to the beach but decided that the cocktails weren’t that inspiring and the beer was colder and better back on the boat. We sat in the cockpit watching the sunset totally sheltered from the wind and the swell.

Nimmie at anchor with Naoussa in the background

After a lazy morning and late breakfast we set off back to Paroikia. The sea was definitely lumpy out of the anchorage but once we got round the corner, the wind was behind us so we could sail most of the way back. Once back in the bay, we anchored in a spot that would give us a good view of the harbour and of boats leaving the next day! Liz went off on the paddle board to suss out the lay of the land (or harbour, in this instance) in preparation. The high winds of the day eased as the sun set and it was like a mill pond overnight.

The next morning, Sunday, the breeze got up around 9am and no boats had left. We had gusts of 30 knots (34 mph) as we were waiting to nab a prized spot inside the harbour. There were spaces on the outside but they would have meant that the waves and wind would be pushing us onto the concrete quay and that’s without the wash from the huge number of ferries that come in and out of Paros every day. Finally, two boats left the inner part so we knew there was space. Despite the windy conditions we decided to go for it as the forecast was for the winds to increase and stay high for the next 5 days so it was now or never. As we approached, the wind dropped to 18 knots and Nimmie behaved beautifully so we slipped into one of the free berths with no drama at all. The last free berth was taken ten minutes later and that was it for the rest of the day. No one was moving anywhere! The wind seems to be slightly less in the inner harbour and certainly no swell or ferry wash so we were very pleased with ourselves. The wind increased throughout the afternoon and various boats came in to find sanctuary but they had to go onto the outer wall. It was carnage as some boats didn’t put enough chain out for the high winds so either got blown sideways onto other yachts or hit the concrete quay as the wind pushed them backwards. Now that we are in place for our guests, we can continue to finish our chores, relax knowing that, if we are storm bound, we can get off the boat easily and even tour around the island.

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Milos, Mining and Meltemi

We left Stefanos on Kythnos after breakfast on Wednesday morning to make our way to the island of Serifos, some 22nm south. We managed to get the genoa (headsail) out for about an hour of downwind sailing but then the wind died so on came the motor for the rest of the journey. We had heard that Livadia on Serifos was cute so we headed for there. The names of the islands in the Cyclades can be very confusing – Serifos, Sithnos, Sinos – all within spitting distance of each other.

We anchored off Livadia town in an area that should have been good holding but we knew that many boats had had problems in the past, did a few jobs, launched Baby Nimmie (aka the dinghy) and headed into town. Back to the boat for dinner and then to bed.

During the night it was so calm that all the boats were dancing around their proverbial handbags so the catamaran next to us was very close at various stages of the night. We let out more chain so we would be further away which helped a bit but we ended up staying up all night on anchor watch. The wind picked up around 9am and then our anchor started to drag. Suddenly we had 25 plus knots of wind and moving ever closer to the other boats. We lifted the anchor and tried to re-anchor three times but in the strong winds the anchor was just not holding in the weed and sand. The Meltemi wind was now gusting over 30 knots inside the anchorage. We decided enough was enough and left to go around the corner to another bay called Koutalas. It was only about 6nm but the wind and sea had now got up. We saw gusts of 44 knots as we went round but, as always, Nimmie took it in her stride and we safely entered the bay. Here it had excellent holding so that, despite the strong winds, the anchor set first time and with gusts of 38 knots, we settled in for the afternoon and evening. There were a few other boats around but we had all given each other plenty of space. Well, until a professionally crewed catamaran came in and tried to anchor by us. We told them in no uncertain terms that they were too close. Eventually they took the hint and moved away. Idiots.

We did an anchor watch of checking every two hours overnight but by the next morning you wouldn’t have even realised there had been a blow. Gently blowing around 12 knots with a few boats already left. We left after breakfast and made our way 27nm south to the island of Milos (of Venus de Milo fame).

Milos is shaped like a horseshoe similar to Santorini and for the same reason, a volcanic eruption many years ago. Consequently, it has a deep bay with many anchorages so you can pretty much shelter from any wind there. Perfect. It also has a rich history of mining, with many different ores having being excavated there over the years. We anchored just outside of the marina, near town. It was a lovely evening so we launched Baby Nimmie to look around town and do some provisioning. We also took the opportunity to visit the excellent Mining Museum in town. It made you realise what a hard life these workers had. One quarry employed 150 men to dig the rock out and 100 women to get the ore out of the rock pieces. The town of Adamas was a lovely place so we decided to eat out and splashed out on a couple of gyros at €3 each. We know how to really push the boat out! Finally, we were able to have a proper night’s sleep.

On the Saturday morning we wanted to sail around the island as there were supposed to be several excellent beaches/coves and rock formations. This was our only chance to have a look as we needed to catch a weather window the next day to go north to Paros. However, we had a snag – literally. Our anchor was caught around a huge chain that had been left on the seabed. When I say huge, the links were the thickness of an arm. It was too deep for us to dive down to and we also figured it was going to be too heavy to pull out even if we got down there. We then remembered that a friend of our friend, Jaco, was based in the marina. We contacted him and bless him, Nikos came out to the boat, free dived to the bottom and lifted the anchor free. It took him less than 5 mins. He wouldn’t take anything from us apart from some beer and a bottle of wine.

We had only been delayed a couple of hours so we made the most of the afternoon by motoring along the coast of the island in an anti clockwise direction. As we left the bay, we motored past the shoreline village of Klima, where there are boat garages at sea level.

The most spectacular cove we saw was at Kleftiko, also known as Pirate’s Cove. You can see why pirates based themselves there with a number of caves to hide in, reefs and rocks for the unwary and spots to secrete boats away from prying eyes. It also had the most amazing turquoise water. Gorgeous.

You can see how pirates could hide here

After a brief stop there to dinghy into the caves, we continued on passing amazing rock formations, disbanded mining villages and secluded beaches. We arrived in Apollonia on the NE corner of the island just before sunset and tied up to a mooring buoy that Nikos owned and had kindly let us use. We slept well that night!

Sunday morning the SW wind filled in and it was perfect for our trip NE to Paros. Unfortunately it didn’t stay strong enough for us to sail more than half an hour so we ended up motoring (again) the 36nm to Paros. It did mean that we could make water and fill the tanks. We arrived in Paroikia on the West side of the island around 4pm and tried to get into the harbour but there was no room apart from in the entrance itself. We tied up and a port police officer strolled up to us and told us that we didn’t want to stay there as we would hit the bottom with the wash created by the ferries coming in and out. He did think there would be space in the harbour in the morning though so we anchored in the bay for the night. On the Monday morning we kept an eagle eye out for anyone leaving and as soon as they did, we went straight in and tied up. We wanted to be in the inner harbour away from the ferry wash (there seems to be over 20 ferries a day here) and with some protection from the wind. We can only stay until Friday morning and we then have to leave so that there is room for the charter fleet to return but we can then come back in when they leave again on the Saturday or Sunday. There were strong winds forecast from Sunday so we are hoping to be able to pop back in before it blows up again as we have friends arriving next week. Fingers crossed. It does mean that we can provision easily, explore the island and get some chores done like the washing!

The town of Paroikia is quite sweet

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