We arrived back from the U.K. late on Sunday evening but at least with hand luggage we were quickly out of the airport. Back on Nimmie, we could see that repairs had progressed with the bow having been fibre glassed and various parts removed. We popped into the boatyard office on the Monday morning to get a feel for how things were going but Sotiris, the Technical Director, was in a bit of a flap about some other boats. He assured us that it was all progressing but clearly didn’t have time to give us any more detail. We left them to it.
As we had originally planned to be in Mykonos from June 18, we decided to keep with the plan and go over by ferry from Rafina, some 50km north. Our friends, Phil and Gerard, who were supposed to be with us on Nimmie had rented an apartment on the south of the Mykonos island so we joined them for a few days.
This was my first time on the island whilst Liz had been there quite a few times over the last 30 years.
It was great to explore the place without worrying about the weather or the mooring. We visited some beautiful beaches including Lia, Elia, Fokos and Agia Anna.
Our friends, Phil and Gerard, left us on the Saturday to make their way to Paros and we went to Mykonos town to meet up with an old school friend of Liz’s, Denise, at an amazing hotel called Absolut Mykonos. We even managed to fit in a couple of dives.
We spent the next couple of days being completely spoilt with an infinity pool and air conditioning! Sadly, we had to leave on the Monday evening to get back to Lavrion and find out how the repairs were going. The ferry trip back was uneventful but on time. This couldn’t be said for the taxi ride home which involved going at breakneck speed and cost nearly €90 (one and a half times the cost up there). Funnily enough, he didn’t get a tip.
The boat repairs are coming along and it’s hoped that they will all be complete by the end of next week. We will lose a few days as it’s gusting 40 knots (45 mph) here at the moment and this will continue for the rest of the week so they can’t paint the bow. With this strength of wind, you really feel it several metres off the ground! So, we have decided to venture into central Greece and go on a road trip!
On Monday morning, we went around to the boatyard to see the Technical Director, a delightful man called Sotiris, to find out what the next steps were in getting Nimmie fixed. He could haul us out the next day, Tuesday, first thing and then arrange the various technical people to come on board so that the repair quote could be compiled.
Tuesday morning was a bit blowy but we successfully motored out of our berth into the dry dock area to be lifted.
We then had people come to look at the teak, gelcoat, stainless steel, riggers – you name it. Over the course of the day, we had everyone on board so that Sotiris could pull the quote together by the end of the week. He also thought that the work would take a month to complete as the deck had come away from the hull at the bow and you need to ensure that the deck is very strong there as it is holding the anchor, the anchor windlass as well as the furling gear for the genoa (front sail).
This week has been all about ensuring that the boat could be left and being around for the anyone needing to pop back to check something. Today, they even managed to take the furling gear off without taking the mast down and found that the furling gear is repairable.
In between all of this, we have popped into the local town, Lavrion, to do some shopping as well as finding a delightful bay about a 30 minute walk from us.
Living on the hard is not great as we have a ten minute walk to the toilet and showers, there is dust everywhere and it feels much warmer here than on the water. Still, we are still in Greece with blue skies and warm weather. Liz has been perfecting her drone flying skills and managed to do this amazing video.
I have to say that our insurers, Bishop Skinner, have been amazing. They agreed to the haul out and storage quickly on Monday morning. Today, we have received the repair quote and Bishop Skinner have agreed to it so work will start immediately. As there is not much more we can at the moment, we have decided to pop back to the U.K. for a week and then we can see how they are progressing on our return.
We left our friends on the southern tip of Aegina in a lovely bay to make our way some 40nm east to the island of Kea in the Cyclades. We sailed for a couple of hours as the wind was behind us but then it died so we ended up motoring for the rest of the day. We passed the busy shipping lanes that lead into Piraeus and the Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sunion without too much hassle.
Then at 1630, out of nowhere, a charter yacht came across our bows. We collided at 6 knots. Our anchor hit just below their bow going straight through their hull and in trying to disentangle ourselves the bow roller and anchor fixings were ripped out of our deck. Whilst we were all very shaken, no one was injured and all the damage is well above the water line so both boats were able to go into Lavrion (the harbour where the charter boat was based). We then spent the next couple of hours exchanging details on insurance. It transpires that the skipper is a local and I think he was employed as a professional skipper. He let slip that he had seen us but just assumed we would change course! We should have seen him but didn’t but equally, the rules state that everyone has a responsibility to avoid a collision so I think we were both responsible.
We spent the night rafted off a catamaran in Lavrion, on the SE corner of the Athens peninsula, before making our way around the corner to Olympic Marina. Serendipitously, Olympic Marina is the one we had decided to take a 12 month contract out with from August so they were happy to accommodate us until we know what is happening. They have a large boatyard that should be able to do all the work required once we have the go ahead from the insurers. As it happened on a Friday afternoon, we won’t know anything until Monday. Poor Nimmie has the equivalent of a bloody nose and a few broken teeth. Thank god she is built like the proverbial outhouse.
We have spent the last two days getting her ready for hauling out with the usual winterisation routine including taking down sails as we don’t know how long it will take to do the work, when they have a a lot in their schedule and whether the insurers will want more than one quote.
It’s all very sad but Nimmie is definitely repairable and no one is hurt so we may well be touring the Cyclades by ferry rather than by yacht this summer! However, on a brighter note, Liz’s new solar cooker has worked really well and lunch was delicious!
I’m sure you are all desperate to know what happened to the sparrow chick. Don’t worry, we managed to feed it on Saturday morning and it even allowed us to stroke it. We went into town to do some shopping and on our return, it had flown off so our job was done.
One of the reasons we went to Epidhavros was to await the arrival of friends who had chartered boats out of Athens for a week. We had planned to join them for some or all of their week. They weren’t due until Sunday evening so we spent our time profitably by finishing getting Nimmie ready for the season. This included putting up the bimini to give us shade in the cockpit, Liz going up the mast to change the anchor light and pumping up the paddle board. We also went to see the famous amphitheatre about 15 mins outside of the town. This was built in the 4th century BC to honour Askeplius, considered by many to be the father of modern medicine. A hospital, hostel and stadium were all built on the same site as the amphitheatre and the small museum holds a fine array of medical instruments used at the time. The amphitheatre holds 14,000 spectators and is still used today.
We also managed to catch up with Cathy & Jorge, who we had first met in Monemvassia last year and Cathy had introduced us to the Facebook group, Women Who Sail the Med.
Our friends duly arrived on Sunday afternoon so we celebrated by eating out at a local taverna. Some of us had slightly sore heads in the morning! This didn’t deter us and we left Epidhavros mid morning to head towards the island of Hydra. Those of you who have been following this blog last year will know that Hydra Town is to be avoided at all costs due to the number of boats crammed into the small harbour. We anchored in a bay less than a mile walk away where we could swim in crystal clear water and have a peaceful night’s sleep. Some of our mini flotilla opted to go into town that night but we stayed on board to eat and have a quiet night to ourselves. We did venture into town Tuesday morning and it is as cute as ever but still bustling with tourists.
We left Mandraki Bay around midday to head towards a (late) lunchtime stop in a bay a couple of hours away. We had a glorious sail, once we had cleaned the bird poo from the stack pack and sails! Lunch in turquoise water (yet again) before making our way to the island of Dhokos to sit out a blow that was coming through. We had used the bay last October for the same thing and it was an incredibly quiet night. We were invited over onto Dioni to have dinner with them. You wouldn’t have known that there were any strong winds nearby at all.
Wednesday morning was spent enjoying the clear water and chatting amongst friends. It was lovely to have company. After another late lunchtime stop for a swim, we went into Poros Town for the night. This was the first time since last year that we were on a Town Quay and even had to pay! Still it was great to be with friends who needed both water and electricity. We had an end of holiday meal at a lovely taverna that gave us free wine – what could go wrong!
The charter boats had to be back in Athens by Friday evening so we spent a lazy afternoon in Russian Bay just outside of Poros Town. It used to be the old Russian Naval Base in the Greek War of Independence (hence the name).
Now it is a lovely bay with a trendy bar and beach. Perfect for a few hours. The others headed north to the island of Aegina so that they wouldn’t have too long to go on their final day. We decided to join them as this would shorten our journey to Kea, our first stop in the Cyclades.
I’ve nicked the title from a friend who commented on a picture we posted – all will become clear later. We arrived in Greece last Sunday evening and it was 2330 by the time we got to our hotel in Piraeus. We had decided to spend three nights in a hotel rather than on the boat as the boatyard is a bit basic to say the least. This way, we were able to freshen up in a clean shower after spending the day on Nimmie. So, on Monday morning we caught the ferry from Piraeus to Paloukia in Salamina and then jumped in a taxi for the 10 minute taxi ride with two large bags, rucksacks and holdalls. Some of the work had been done but not all completed. Just as well we arrived a few days before we wanted to have her launched.
Over the next two days we set about doing the various jobs required to get her launched but we hadn’t reckoned on either Greek bureaucracy or sparrow chicks. The former meant they had “lost” my online payment for the new Greek Cruising Tax that came into effect on May 9th and you only had 10 days grace to pay it. We were safe until we entered the water (and the authorities are being very keen to ensure people have paid it) so several hours of Wednesday were spent waiting in line at a bank to pay our €300 and hope it got credited to the correct account. The latter, sparrow chicks, was also a delaying factor. Local sparrows had built a nest in our boom and the eggs had hatched a few weeks ago according to our neighbour.
We were in a real quandary as to what to do. Luckily, on Thursday afternoon it appeared to have flown off so we were safe to launch. However, once we were on our way, we heard chirping again coming from the boom. Now, we aren’t sure whether this is a second chick or the original one but it’s joined us on our first passage of the season. Launching was an uncomplicated affair with a low hydraulic trailer and a tractor. Twenty minutes was all it took.
Our journey from Salamina was uneventful although we had some great wind. We decided to only use the Genoa (front sail) so as not to disturb the chick if we used the main sail so motorsailed all the way.We are now in Palaia Epidhavros, anchored in the harbour for the next couple of days. Not sure what to do about the sparrow chick but a local sparrow must have heard it as it came to investigate once we had settled here. Hopefully, it will fly off soon. We’ll keep you posted.
Nimmie reached the grand old age of 21 earlier this month so Jo popped over to Greece for a few days to check on her and, of course, wish her a happy birthday! We were slightly worried as there had been radio silence from the boatyard since mid December. No replies to emails or anyone answering the phone (not that we would be able to understand them if the English speaking nephew wasn’t in the office!). We were starting to worry that they’d gone out of business or just abandoned the yard. Jo sent an email in late March in Greek (thanks Duolingo and Google translate) to the office in case the problem was the nephew. Amazingly, within two hours we had a reply from him and also his mobile number. Phew!
So, on a cool Monday afternoon in April, Jo set off down to Gatwick to fly out to Athens. Laden down with a suitcase full of boat stuff, she caught the bus from Athens airport to Piraeus where we’d found a cheap hotel for a couple of nights. Jo had decided to stay in a hotel in Piraeus and get the ferry and then taxi each day rather than stay on the boat in the boatyard as it was very basic there as well as being in the middle of nowhere.
My commute each morning and evening!
The ferry was all of €2.90 each way and the taxi €7 so not exactly exorbitant. Salamina town is about a 20 min walk from the boatyard and then a couple of miles on to the ferry port at Paloukia, hence the need for a taxi part of the way. The ferry is a commuter boat taking people into Piraeus in the morning and stopping around 6/7pm at night. The hotel was only about 5 minute walk from the ferry dock.
It was useful to be over there as Jo met with the boatyard people to discuss the work that had yet to be done as well as try out the new portable solar panels that fold away. We were going to buy new solar panels at the Dusseldorf Boat Show to replace those on our aft deck but we decided to wait and get a new smart controller for the panels that will show us exactly what we are (or aren’t) getting through the current panels (no pun intended!) and then take it from there. The temporary panels don’t require any hard wiring so you can just clip the wires straight onto your battery bank.
The new solar panels fitting neatly on the side
They were working well even in the April sunshine giving us nearly 6 amps of power. Very impressed. As they are portable, we can place them wherever is best for maximum exposure so this should help to keep the batteries topped up whilst we sort the fixed solar panels.
Generally, Nimmie was looking good after the winter but the real test will be when she is relaunched in May and we find out what’s decided to stop working in the preceding seven months because there is bound to be something.
2018 was our first summer living aboard in Greece. It was interesting to observe how different things appeared between when we first sailed there in 2003 and now. The biggest difference was the amount of rubbish. Tourist beaches were kept clean such as Elafonisos and Karathona but those in isolated bays open to the prevailing wind or currents were covered with rubbish.
The Ionian was incredibly busy, although we were there in July and August so perhaps not surprising. There were a lot more skippered charter boats who seemed very happy to cut you up to get the last spot on a town quay. We weren’t that bothered so generally left them to it and found a quieter spot. We mainly anchored but mixed it up with a few town quays as these were relatively cheap at €8 per night excluding electricity or water. We only stayed in two marinas, Kalamata and Preveza. The former to resolve our charging problem and the latter to leave the boat for two weeks. When the bays are crowded and there isn’t enough room to swing at anchor, it’s common practice to take lines ashore so you don’t move but this can be a challenge in less than ideal conditions and with only two of you on board. We also learnt to ensure that we could release these long lines quickly in an emergency. We found the mainland a lot less crowded than the islands but still as pretty. If we did intend to go to a popular spot, we tried to go at the weekends on charter changeover days. As a result of all the charter boats there seemed to be a lot of wasps but we did find burning ground coffee helped. We also found that mosquitoes tended to stop biting you after a while, until we got to Salamina, off Piraeus, where they attacked with some ferocity at dawn and dusk – very reminiscent of Venice!
The Greek people were friendly and polite with almost everyone speaking English although a bit of Greek went down well. A lot of people smoked, especially young people which was a marked change from last year in Croatia. Although the shops in some places were finding it difficult to keep shelves stocked, we generally found good food shops in the more populated areas and some great finds on small islands. As with most of the Med, shop opening hours tended to be 0800-1300 and then 1730-2100. Local wine was very cheap in the shops and in the restaurants, as long as you bought it by the kilo! Greece is very much a cash economy and whilst you can pay by card in restaurants, anyone working on your boat wanted cash in hand.
Liz caught a lot more fish this year, all of which were very tasty. No tuna as such but definitely tuna family. In fact we caught more fish than we had the mainsail up. This was because the wind bends around the island so we were often head to wind despite changing direction. When the afternoon sea breeze kicked in we were able to sail downwind so only bothered with the genoa. However, when the wind did get up we had strong northwesterlies (Meltemi) and also needed to hole up for the Medicane that blew through in September. We were glad that we anchored when the Medicane came as we saw for ourselves the damage it had done to a number of boats that moored on town quays. This was mainly because the wind direction shifted from SE to NE to NW so it was very likely that surge would come from one of those directions and push your boat against the concrete quay. You can guess who would win that encounter! We found many delightful bays and islands, particularly off the beaten track. There was much wildlife including turtles, sea snakes and dolphins.
We had read that it can be difficult to get fuel in Greece but we found that it was relatively easy to find mini tankers who come along the town quays. The quality of the water was variable so using our watermaker worked well. Getting our gas bottles refilled was generally better than expected and certainly easier than Croatia. It was also cheaper at around €13 per refill.
We were surprised that a number of banks charged for withdrawing money from our pre loaded card. The only one we found that didn’t was Alpha Bank and luckily, they have a large number of branches across Greece.
We travelled far less this year as the islands are much closer together and we only had one night sail (from Bari, Italy to Erikoussa, Greece). This meant that we could enjoy the places we visited in a more leisurely fashion. It also meant that we were subject to the prevailing wind conditions of Western Greece so that there was either little or no wind for most of the day, hence we motored or motorsailed – a lot!
We have updated our running costs and charted where we have been during 2018. We found Greece significantly cheaper than Croatia and Italy, spending less than €2,000 per month rather than over €3,000! One major difference between Croatia and Greece was the cost and type of mooring. We could anchor much more often and if we were on a town quay, the charges were pretty cheap (at €8 per night) or free.
Please click here for more details on mooring and statistics of our time in Greece.
We left Aegina on Sunday morning, relieved that we hadn’t caught anyone’s anchor or chain and made our way up to Salamina, an island just west of Piraeus. This would be our winter mooring on the hard in the boatyard of a family run concern.
Both sails up – what a treat! Happy as pig in sh*t
We had a cracking sail to finish our season off in style. I suspect that we have caught more fish than the number of times we have had the mainsail up this year! Although we had to tack our way up to Salamina as, of course, the wind was on the nose, it was great to blast through the water one last time. We anchored off the boatyard for the night and had a really peaceful night’s sleep. No swell, no wash from passing boats and only the gentlest of breezes. Lovely.
The old fashioned way!
Next morning, we contacted the yard and they were ready for us so we carefully made our way to their slipway. The Koupetori yard uses the old fashioned method of hydraulic tractors to ‘lift’ you out rather than a travel hoist. This entails going alongside a barge to tie up with only centimetres under the keel and then the tractor with a hydraulic trailer is reversed into the water. Once underneath Nimmie, they lifted her up a bit, pulled her into the yard, washed her down (she was very clean so that didn’t take long) and put her into her supports. Whilst a bit nerve racking, it was all done with the minimum of fuss and took less than 30 minutes. The yard used to make wooden boats but when the Greek fishing industry collapsed they turned their hand to providing yacht services. It’s been a family business for three generations.
Up on her supports for the winter
We’ve spent the last few days getting Nimmie ready for winter. This means that we have to clean her inside and out, remove the genoa sail, wash all the ropes, make sure nothing can be damaged in a storm so removing the bimini and spray hood and doing the laundry. That doesn’t include the long list we have for when we leave her for 6 months. Frankly, it’s exhausting! We decided to stay on board even though this means that you have to climb down the ladder every time you want the loo or the shower. There are boats of every nationality here with our newest neighbours being from Latvia. Most people only stay on board a few days as it would be very tiresome to be here any length of time, especially as the mosquitoes are prevalent.
We did find time to get the ferry over to Piraeus and then get a taxi down to Glyfada to meet up with a friend, Ian, who lives there. It was great to catch up with him as we hadn’t seen him for at least 4 years. We had a lovely meal at one of his local haunts and caught the last ferry back at 7pm.
Lovely to catch up with Ian
Today, we fly back home having had a wonderful season out in Greece and we can’t complain that even in mid October we are wearing t shirts and shorts during the day. I suspect it won’t be quite as warm in the U.K.
We knew that another Meltemi was due on Wednesday so we planned to get to Aegina Town on the island of the same name on Tuesday in case others had the same idea! This would then only leave us a few hours sail up to our winter berth at Salamina, near Piraeus.
First, though, we wanted to have one last night in a tranquil bay and possibly a last swim. We motored north to the island of Agristri and found a lovely bay with turquoise water and no one else. Perfect. We dropped the anchor and whilst we had a late lunch, a fishing boat came into the bay. It was fascinating watching them at work.
Afterwards we made our way ashore to explore. Sadly, the head of the bay was covered in rubbish. I suspect it was blown in whenever there is a strong northerly. So sad but something we have really noticed these last months. If a bay is not inhabited then the rubbish doesn’t get collected. We walked to one of only three settlements on the island. We did get a few strange glances from the locals but as soon as you said ‘kalispera’ (good afternoon) you got at least a nod back. The island has an inland seawater lagoon and a couple of other bays but otherwise not much. We settled in for a quiet evening knowing that the wind was due to come round to the North in the morning, which would make for an uncomfortable berth. Of course, this happened at 3am not 9am so by 8 we had enough and left for Aegina.
When we arrived at Aegina Town, there weren’t too many free berths on the North quay where we knew we would be very sheltered from the Meltemi but there was one right next to Shindig, our Westerly neighbours in Vathy. Although it was windy in the harbour, we dropped the anchor and came in pretty effectively. We tied up and sorted ourselves out. Unfortunately a short time later, a boat three down from us had somehow managed to snag our chain as they were pulling their own anchor up. Sometimes when that happens they sort themselves out and we drop our chain and the anchor isn’t disturbed. Not this time. When we tightened our anchor the chain kept coming in so they had obviously dislodged it which meant we had to go out and re-anchor. By this point, the wind had got up more and we ended up with our anchor at an angle to our boat so we were over Shindig’s chain. Luckily, they weren’t leaving anytime soon! Also, we had dropped our anchor too far out so as we went astern we ran out of chain and that stopped us dead in our tracks so we made contact with our other neighbour. Luckily, just a little mark which soon rubbed off but Jo was so mortified that we gave them a pack of beer as an apology.
We figured we would be here for several days as the strong winds were forecast to last until at least Sunday so we rented a couple of scooters to explore the island.
The island is rich in history as remains dating back to 2500BC have been found. Indeed, just north of Aegina town is the Temple of Apollo that sits on top of Bronze Age settlements. Legend has it that Zeus sent one of his lovers, Aigina, to the island and gave birth to his son, Alakos. Venetian sailors used to use the column that is left as a navigation aid.
In the centre of the island is a settlement called Paleohora where we found the ruins of 35 churches dating back to the Middle Ages. It was completely open and we saw just a couple of other people there. Fascinating. We also went to the Temple of Aphaia to the north east part of the island with amazing views across to Piraeus.
The southern harbour of Perdika was a delightful spot for coffee and cake. Pistachios are everywhere on the island and we happened to find a coffee shop that specialised in pistachio pie. It was really more like a cake and, my goodness, it was heavenly.
Away from the exploring, we have been busy getting jobs done in preparation for Nimmie being lifted out. We did get the bikes out and cycled just north of the town where there are several boatyards to see whether any of them are viable options for next year. Most of them were pretty rudimentary with bits of wood holding up the boats rather than metal cradles. They were also very close to the sea with little protection so I doubt if we will use them.
We left Mandraki Bay on Hydra on Thursday October 4th in almost flat calm conditions. It seems amazing that only a few days before, all hell was letting loose with the weather gods. Still we weren’t complaining. We motored for about an hour to the corner of the Peloponnese that would signify us finally making it into the Saronic Gulf, where we will overwinter. It feels good to know that we are only a day sail away from the boatyard on Salamis island, near Piraeus.
We stopped for lunch on the corner of the island of Spathi where it was turquoise water and blue skies.
Spathi – a lovely lunchtime spot
We had thought about staying there overnight but it was a little bit too exposed to the northerlies that were due so we continued around the corner to the island of Poros.
The monastery of Zoodochou Peges
We anchored in Monastery Bay and then walked up the hill to the monastery.
Monastery Bay with Nimmie in the picture!
It was a lovely spot although the bay itself had seen better days and was probably indicative of the financial crisis in Greece. There was no spare money to sort out the rubbish and the dilapidated buildings. It also turned out to be one of the most rolly anchorages we had ever been in. The wind died and so we sat beam on to any wash coming from the ferries, yachts and fishing boats that were making their way to Poros Town. By 8am the next morning we were ready to move on to Poros Town Quay. We knew it was very popular so we wanted to get in early as people were leaving.
Poros Town is a lovely place sitting on the south side of the tiny island in an incredibly protected channel. It’s only a short sea taxi ride between Poros and the mainland town of Galatas but they are worlds apart in terms of prosperity. Poros is clearly a tourist destination with cute shops in steep, little alleyways as you walk up away from the harbour front. We ended spending two nights there and having a couple of meals out.
On Saturday evening we had cocktails watching the sunset behind the mountain range known as the Sleeping Lady – we will leave it to you to work out why so named!
The Sleeping Lady
Refreshed, we left Sunday morning to go onto the peninsular of Methana and the little harbour of Vathy. It’s now very popular with flotillas so we were hoping that Sunday would be a quiet day. There was no wind so we motored all the way round (some 20nm). When we arrived, there were only 3 boats there so we tied up to the quay and met our neighbours, 3 Australians with another Westerly boat, a Westerly 490.
Nimmie with her big sister, Shindig
Vathy is a delightful place with nothing but a few fishing boats and a few tavernas.