Kuşadasi to Ayvalik: 144 Miles

Monday 9 – Sunday 15 May

To begin a new week, we walked back into the old town to meet Mikail again before his day’s work began, as the previous evening he had very kindly offered to show us the best shopping for fresh provisions in the town.  Interestingly, it turned out to be the shops we’d noted on our way to our rendezvous for the ubiquitous çay (chai) before embarking on this stock-up, and our bags were soon full of a good range of fruit and vegetables, eggs, bread, local cheeses and olives, and a few meals’ worth of meat for our carnivorous skipper.

It was almost tea time before we finally got going from our berth, hampered as we were by uncooperative marina staff who proved less than helpful in explaining their peculiar arrangements for pump-out.  Eventually we made our way out between the red and green lights, and into a big sea, where we started off in a Westerly F3-4 with full main and genoa on a beam reach for the first hour.  Frustratingly, thereafter the wind veered, backed and increased so we reduced sail to the staysail with the main, but on starboard tack into waves of around one metre we stalled repeatedly, so we furled the foresail and reintroduced the iron tops’l.

It took us a cold and tedious five hours to make 14 Miles into Cam Limani, and in pitch dark at 2200 we took pot luck about what the anchor landed on, ending up uncomfortably close to a gulet on his own mooring buoy, almost invisible against the shoreline.  Skipper dropped the dinghy into the water to take a line ashore and secured it around a large rock, but when we tested with our usual pull back method, the anchor slipped and we had to start all over again. 

Meanwhile over on the beach, a group of guys were clearing up after an evening picnic, and decided to bring their vehicle down onto the sand to speed up the packing process.  Are you ahead of me here?  The wheels got stuck in the soft sand, and the hard and repeated revving of the engine wafted across the water to us, along with a sharp fragrance of burning rubber.

By the time we were confident we were securely attached to the sea bed and shore, all was quiet again, and in the morning the vehicle was no more, so they must have succeeded eventually, but I can only surmise that outdoorsy, competent and overrun with initiative in any kind of Scouts/military way they definitely were not.  Skipper’s final observation was “it would have been easier in daylight” – I think he spoke for all of us.

Too close for comfort

The following morning revealed a beautiful setting, but when the gulet left its dinghy on their mooring, we were practically on top of it, and anyway, we expected better shelter a further 10 Miles on to the Northwest, so we set off on another leg of motor sailing, using the mainsail for a lift: having it set, even when our course is too close to the wind, fills it enough that we sit more firmly on the water, which smooths out the waves and increases our speed just a little.

A couple of hours later we were happily settled into Körmen Adasi, with a line to a rock on the beach again, and the whole cove to ourselves.  After a late lunch we paddled the dinghy over to the corner of the bay to investigate the rumoured hot spring…which turned out to be a lukewarm rock pool with occasional columns of tiny rising bubbles.  Not the best jacuzzi I’ve ever sat in, but the view was fairly spectacular.

Although one other boat joined us, they maintained a polite distance, and we enjoyed two quiet days to complete a few small jobs, and for Mate to return to the dinghy cover, and enjoy a relatively long swim.  In spite of sailors’ superstitions, on Friday 13 May we set off early in a light variable breeze to motor a further 10 Miles to Siğacik, which is an attractive mediaeval walled town with a distinctly Greek look.   We anchored in a sheltered shallow bay, and took the dinghy to the town quay to tie up among the small open local fishing fleet.

We walked a hot and dusty track up to the ancient city of Teos, and were pleasantly surprised to find a small amphitheatre and heaps of boulders scattered across an area of around five square kilometres.  According to the archaeologists, there is evidence of a harbour, an acropolis at the top of a hill, and a temple to Dionysus, but our visit revealed evidence of excavation in organised groupings of columns and sections of carved lintels, rather than obvious ruins lying where they fell during earthquakes and years of neglect or lack of habitation.  A colourful flock of goats was ushered languorously through the site, adding to the pastoral charm and the impression of contemporary rural life continuing among the ancient stones.


Returning to the walled town, we wandered along narrow alleyways designed to appeal to cruise ship tourists, and struggled to find basic food provisions.  We chatted with the friendly marina staff about a possible Winter berth, but soon decided it has too many cons and not enough pros to be suitable.

Starting early again on Saturday morning, we began a run of all day motoring in very light winds.  Last Autumn we passed this way from Chios in Greece to Çeşme in Turkey, where we purchased a new dinghy.  This time we continued North to anchor for the night in a narrow bight that appeared to be the base for the local fish farming industry vessels, Egri Limani.  The highlight of the day was a brief glimpse of a dolphin.

Tucked in and cosy in beautiful peace

On Sunday we hit repeat and covered another 50+ Miles, following the channel between Lesbos and the Turkish mainland, as far as Ayvalik.  Today’s wildlife spot was a turtle.  At the end of a very tedious weekend of constant engine noise but good progress, we ended up in the beautiful ‘lake’ of almost enclosed water that is Kumru Koyu, in this mini archipelago that offers a perfect rest point between Izmir and the beginning of the Dardanelles channel, where we enjoyed a very peaceful, sheltered night.

Bodrum to Kuşadasi: 101 Miles

Tuesday 3 – Sunday 8 May

On Tuesday morning we followed a local boatman’s directions to follow the ‘channel’ between two swim areas to land on the beach, and secure the dinghy’s painter to a line that followed the water’s edge…for no apparent reason, but it was tethered and obviously used for the purpose.  We dusted the gritty sand off our feet and waited with a large Turkish family group and some Scottish tourists for the next dolmuş, the national bus service that uses small minibuses.  These will often stop on request, both to pick up and deposit passengers, which must catch out unwary drivers behind them.

Decorative tree pots in Bodrum

We wandered around the promenade area and through the very chi-chi shops adjacent to the marina, enjoying the tree pots along the roadside more than the selection of shopping on offer.  In the main pedestrianised shopping precinct, we chose a pleasant pavement restaurant for lunch, before Mate decided to be a tourist after all and treated herself to a rather fetching navy straw hat and some leather bracelets.  We wound our way through the quiet residential back streets up to the main road that runs along the cliff top above the town, expecting to find a Carrefour supermarket for provisions.  We did, and it was probably the worst we’ve ever visited, but by chance just before we arrived, we stumbled over a fabulous delicatessen-standard cheese shop, which also offered all sorts of interesting goodies: sourdough bread, olives, charcuterie, eggs, preserves and sweet treats…a little bit of foodie heaven before the disappointing comedown of an unusually grubby, poorly laid out and inadequately stocked grocery store.

On Wednesday afternoon the wind was quite strong, and our anchor dragged – fortunately as we had anticipated this might happen, we were onboard and able to deal with it promptly.  We finally settled in a beautiful spot out of the bay and around the corner, just North of a well-known anchorage called ‘The Aquarium’ – even on the charts.  There were a few trip boats when we arrived, but by evening the wind moderated and we had the peace and quiet almost to ourselves.  It was pleasant enough to stay the following day and say hello to the local pair of greylag geese as they paddled by.

On Friday 6 we were away around sunrise into a brisk North/Northwesterly F4-5, which soon veered to the Northeast, so we set the main at second reef and balanced this with the staysail.  We made some long tacks to beat to windward, and mid-morning were able to shake out the second and reset at first reef in the mainsail.  Hoping for less contrary wind behind the pair of islands that lie off Turgutreis and Gümüslük, we managed to mess up a tack completely and lose all the ground we’d just made on the previous leg.  However, we were cheered up by the perfect timing of a lone flamingo, which flew low across the sea ahead of us, its pink wings and legs clearly visible.

Eventually breaking free of Gümüslük channel, we found the wind now backed to North-northwest and reaching F6+ in the gusts, creating a lumpy sea, so we reefed back down to second and settled onto a port tack (wind coming from the left side of the boat).  After only 42 Miles in nine hours’ sailing, we found an overnight stop just East of Didim marina and Altinkum in the very shallow Kürürik Bükü, a pretty enough and sheltered spot.  The only disturbance was from a small racing yacht behind us, whose mainsail had apparently been blown out and ripped: the lower section was bundled against the mast, but the upper reaches blew like a shredded flag whilst there was any wind.  The campers on the beach were no trouble at all.

Saturday was another early start for our next goal of Kuşadasi, which began with main and genoa set and the engine helping us into a NNE F3-4, until we rounded the corner, were buzzed by the Coastguard but only from a curious short distance, and changed down to staysail to enjoy a pleasant close reach, on course.  Mid-morning the wind led us its usual dance, veering slightly to NE F4-5 before backing to NW F4: first reef in, take it out again, find ourselves heading for Greek waters and Agathonisi, an island we stopped at last Autumn.

Skipper did some research at some point during this long trek up the Turkish coast, as it proved difficult to sail in the prevailing winds without encroaching territorial waters, and there is a concept known as Right of Innocent Passage, which says that if we are neither a warship nor a submarine, we are free to sail anywhere we reasonably need to.  We have heard the Coastguard warning vessels off their border lines over the VHF radio, and must conclude these are fishing boats, who obviously have to contend with quotas and boundaries.

BIG wind shifts in the narrow passage
between Samos and Turkey

We gradually made our way North to the South shore of Samos, and slipped past Pythagorion, another pleasant stop last Autumn, to make a fast passage through the strip of water that separates Greece and Turkey by less than a mile at its narrowest point.  Coming out into Kuşadasi Korfezi (Bay) we rolled across big waves and eventually into the path of the ferry, before slipping into the very shallow bay under the walls of the castle, but there was no room for us.

On arriving into Kuşadasi Setur Marina at 1900, we were lulled into a false sense of security by a warm and helpful welcome from the marineros in a RIB, who tucked us comfortably into a stern-to berth on a convenient pontoon.  Skipper was not a little frustrated at the inordinate time it took the office boy to check us in, and unprintably horrified at the cost: 120€ per night, with water, electricity and waste tank pump out all additional.  Yes, the facilities were the best we’ve enjoyed since the Olympic marina in Weymouth on the English South Coast, but the final straw was delivered by a member of the local feline community, ON THE TOP OF THE SPRAYHOOD.

Mate decided just to laugh when offered DIY laundry for “around” 300₺ – approximate because the machine is metered and the office wasn’t sure how long it would take.  Having been there and done that, she took their advice and paid a visit to a unit in the adjacent boatyard for a service wash: three bags for a grand total of 150₺, around £7.50.  Whilst this was being dealt with, Skipper gave the boat a thorough wash and scrub down to remove the worst of the caked-on salt and sandy grit, shutting Mate down below with the cleaning cloths and dust removers.

After all this exhausting activity, it was time to find a celebratory supper in the Old Town.  Following some questionable reviews, we walked in and straight back out of our first choice, unwilling to suffer the background football commentary (local and unintelligible, even if we understood the game) and action on huge screens in every direction, the harsh lighting and harsher language of a group of (sadly) English tourists already the worse for wear.  Karma being what it is, just around the corner was a delightful spot called The Green Garden, a leafy roof sheltering a quirky rustic restaurant where we were warmly welcomed and looked after by the lovely Mikail.  Not only did he speak excellent English, and encouraged our attempts at his language, he also spoke vegetarian, and recommended a tasty dish for Mate, as well as the house special flambé, a sizzling platter served over burning coals, for Skipper.

Eating out in the countries we visit is always an experience, and Turkish food has proved tasty and cheap.

Marmaris to Bodrum: 91 Miles

Saturday 30 April – Monday 2 May (UK Early May Bank Holiday)

On the last day of April, we were up and away by 0700 under an overcast sky in a light NW, which soon developed into a Northerly F4-5.  As we were heading Southwest, ultimately towards our next main goal of Bodrum, this gave us a lovely broad reach, definitely L’Escale’s favourite point of sail, at seven knots…for about half an hour, until the wind dropped dramatically and veered Southeasterly, necessitating another stretch of motorsailing.  That was not the end of the changes though, and after another 30 minutes we were sailing again, first with main and genoa but soon changing down to staysail to reduce heel as we close reached into a Westerly F4.

Tricky wind shifts (green/red line graph)

We reduced the mainsail to first reef, then shook it out again, then the wind went all over the place in both strength and direction, resulting in big confused seas and not a little discomfort aboard.  However, on the bright side, we proved the worth of the new mast track in quick, safe, engine-free reefing and hoisting, and the winch monkey had a good workout.  For added entertainment, the Turkish coastguard came close alongside to ask us by radio our destination and the number of people onboard, but apart from poor timing as we needed to put in a tack at that moment, and Mate promptly messed it up, they wished us a good watch and continued on their way.

After such an early start, by 1400 we were ready for a break, and decided to call it a day and attempt a narrow entrance into a steep-sided inlet shaped like an orca’s tail.  As it was still gusting 25+ knots outside, Mate was apprehensive that it would be safe to go into, and sheltered once we were in there, or whether there would be a ‘katabatic’ effect from the wind accelerating down the steep hillsides, but with the engine on, the staysail furled and the main dumped for tidying later, she followed the chart on the plotter screen carefully, and found plenty of space and a sandy bottom in Serçe Limani.  Another 30 Miles closer to Istanbul…

Serçe Limani – the orca’s tail

We remained at anchor in the sunshine on Sunday 1 May, treating ourselves to a lovely relaxed lunch at Osman’s open-air restaurant at the far end of the bay.  With good English he welcomed us warmly and asked us what we’d like to eat and drink: no menu, no prices, but fresh home-cooked delicious food and a beer in a peaceful setting.

We made an early start the following morning to round the Southernmost of the three peninsulas of SW Turkey, the fingers that stretch towards and surround some of the Dodecanese Islands of Eastern Aegean Greece.  You’re never far from land sailing in this part of the world, but it can make it difficult to stay in the appropriate territorial waters when the wind doesn’t want to cooperate.  Today was our first taste of apprehension about whether the coastguards would notice or care about the course of any particular yacht in their area of jurisdiction, and in a reasonable Easterly F3-4 under another overcast sky, we achieved a combination of motorsailing and sailing in and out of Greek waters, to round Simi without attracting any official attention.

Rather than stop in Datça, we decided to continue with our good progress and round the second peninsula to cross Gokova Körfezi, past the Eastern end of Kos.  In the early evening we enjoyed reaching under mainsail and genoa at seven knots once again.  The wind built quite quickly to Force 6, a yachtsman’s gale, but we reefed down, changed to staysail and then reefed the main again, and were still creaming along at between seven and eight-and-a-half knots: our notional hull speed (supposed maximum) is nine!  Just before sunset, with a respectable 61 Miles under our hull, we anchored off the town of Gümbet, a sort of suburb of sprawling Bodrum, hoping we would be sheltered from the forecast winds.

Mast track and Marmaris

Tuesday 19 – Friday 29 April

Having waited for the forecast heavy rain of early Tuesday to clear through, we went ashore to deal with laundry, by special dispensation of the marina: a mixed blessing as it avoided the necessity of finding a service wash in town, but the machines are old and unreliable, which caused us some difficulties in translation (mime) and delays.  We collected some food shopping, and enjoyed supper ashore.  On Wednesday morning, after emptying our holding tank once more at Fethiye marina, we headed out of the bay, making water, and in very little wind left Trevver to get us across to pick up the one and only mooring buoy back in Sarsala Koyu, where we first stopped on last week’s Easter cruise.

We remained in this lovely setting through Saturday, enjoying the peace and scenery when the day trippers departed, with Mate beginning work making a UV_resistant cover for the new dinghy’s inflatable tubes, whilst Skipper fittedg the long-awaited mast track.  The latter sits on the outside surface of the rear of the mast, meaning the sliders that hold and guide the main sail up and down suffer less friction, which leads to less effort for the crew in hoisting, and more importantly mean we can reef (reduce sail in stronger winds) much quicker and more safely, without having to use the engine to hold ourselves into the wind.

On Sunday 24 we set off out of the ‘lake’, as we’d nicknamed the sheltered water almost enclosed by islands, for Marmaris, topping up our water tanks en route.  In a comfortable Westerly Force 4 we began with full main and staysail, and as the wind dropped added the genoa, making the most of our cutter rig.  When it blew back up to a F3 we furled the staysail, and towards evening the wind was ‘on the nose’ and dying, having pushed up an npleasantly lumpy sea.  At 1900 we gave up after only 36 miles, anchoring in Küçüksemizce Koyu, a rather open bay in the company of a couple of other yachts, but with no development at all on the shoreline.

After a somewhat rolly night during which the raised centreboard persisted in its mournful clunking, we were pleased the following morning to be invited by a local trip boat to join him up the river Köyceğiz to visit the ancient city of Caunos.  The pilot book says it is a very attractive and interesting trip, and when we return this way later in the year it is good to know we should be able to be picked up from our own vessel, without needing to find somewhere to take the dinghy ashore.  For now, we contented ourselves with achieving the remaining 21 Miles under main and staysail in a light-ish SW3, motorsailing now and again to keep us on track.

The approach into Marmaris bay is some distance, and on the way we passed a smart navy superyacht that we were later informed is that of Roman Abramovich, the former owner of Chelsea football team manager, and is one of many such vessels owned by Russians that are currently in the politically safe haven of Turkish waters.  We anchored East of the town in shallow water near some marshland, after a much more satisfying day’s sailing in more cooperative wind and a flatter sea, allowing us to make more water and chat with both our children: our son was excited to share his news that he passed his Ambulance apprenticeship with distinction, in preparation for beginning a Masters in Paramedic Science at York in September.

Much of this large bay is attractive, but on Tuesday morning when we moved to anchor off the town beach – third time lucky – to go ashore for provisions and a look around, it proved to be an experience we would not choose to repeat.  Local trip boats, gulets and party boats weave through the anchored yachts from early until late, everything turned up to maximum, and the noise from the discos and clubs ashore seems to go through until the early hours.  We did find a pleasant service laundry ashore, and a large number of every kind of yacht service provider, so we shall probably return in the Winter to have some replacement canvas items made up: the sprayhood and sailbag are both showing signs of old age and needing repair of the repairs.

We were happy to weigh anchor relatively early on the Thursday morning, saying a brief hello as we passed a Ukrainian-flagged yacht we’d encountered on Preveza town quay a year ago.  We were pleased to hear his immediate family are safe and well.  Back at the marsh anchorage, the only sounds were birdsong and the gentle lapping of water.  Some more jobs were ticked off the never-ending list before the end of Friday.

Fethiye with Friends

13-18 April 2022 – Easter Weekend in the UK

Back in 2018, whilst sailing around the Baltic Sea, we were lucky enough to be befriended by a couple of French girls who currently live in Oslo and sail a smaller aluminium yacht called Saltimbanque.  The skipper aspires to something larger and more suitable for long-term living aboard and cruising, even though (or because?) they completed an Atlantic circuit in their current boat ten years ago.  Notwithstanding any yacht envy, we have become lasting friends, and this Easter we were delighted to be able to welcome them back, after two years’ thwarted plans, to enjoy exploring this beautiful area of SW Turkey with us, whilst their home cruising grounds up in Norway are still a little chilly.

After a somewhat challenging journey across Europe, they finally arrived into Dalaman airport later than expected on Wednesday evening, and soon settled into our guest cabin.  Thursday morning saw us all raring to go, and after breakfast and a brief manoeuvre for evidence we were adhering to Turkey’s strict rules for dealing with yacht waste, we cleared the marina and set full main and staysail for a pleasant 17 Miles across the bay in a W/SW 2-4.  We reduced the mainsail to first reef to help reduce the heel as we were making water as we went, dropping anchor in 16 metres of water in Sarsala Koyu, a beautiful bay South of Goçek.  One guest was in the water almost before we’d come to a stop, and returned eventually, refreshed if a little numb around the extremities.

Amongst the ruins

Saturday 16 April saw us don sturdy footwear for a crazy scramble up a river gorge in search of the local ancient ruins.  The pilot book had warned us the main access path was from the cove to our left, but our intrepid guests, 15 years our junior and familiar with this kind of ‘exercise’, made light work of it and certainly put Mate to shame, more so with their care and concern for the stick-gripping old lady in their midst.  It was worth the effort of the steep sides and dry, loose sand and stone, to discover an ancient hidden community, now inhabited by a few farming families.  Evidence can still be found of former systems of irrigation in this arid land, among the carved and cut sections of column and wall.

Spoonwing Lacewing –
Nemoptera Sinuata (credit: LB)

We were also lucky to come across a beautiful lacewing, usually only seen between mid-May and late June, when the temperature is at least 17 degrees Centigrade and there is no wind. The species is distributed throughout the Balkan peninsula, specifically Bulgaria, East Thrace, Greece and Northern Macedonia.

Relieved to follow the marked track back down to our cove, and enjoying the stunning views across Fethiye Körfezi (Bay), we enjoyed a relaxed lunch in the cockpit before leaving our crew to sail us back to our starting point in a similarly flat and sparkling sea, allowing us to show off L’Escale’s glorious smooth slipping through the water under full main and genoa.  Before we were ‘home’ the wind died to nothing: “c’est pétol” according to our guest skipper, but it gave us a calm night.

Sarsala Koyu, South of Goçek in Fethiye Körfezi

Tortoises and tombs

We ‘celebrated’ Easter Day with a brief exchange of chocolate-orientated gifts, before making the most of the calm before the (forecast) storm of strong winds with a run ashore to explore the historical attractions of this key port of the Lycian coast.  Fethiye was formerly known as Telmessos, and its ancient amphitheatre can still be viewed from a footpath up the hill behind the town, on the way to the famous collection of rock tombs.  The most important of these is that of Amyntas, easily recognised as i) it’s the only one for which there is an ‘entrance’ charge to walk another uphill path ii) it stands apart from the collection carved from the adjoining cliff face and iii) its façade is embellished with Ionic columns and portico, that have withstood time and weather remarkably well.  Meandering among the wild grasses and, in our Northern eyes, Summer flowers like vibrant poppies, we spotted a couple of tortoises, remembered by Skipper’s mother from a visit here back in 1994.  Sadly, a hind leg of one of them was caught in a redundant plastic bag, all the more heart-breaking as it was inside a fence that rendered rescue impossible.

After a fortifying lunch at a waterfront restaurant we already knew offered a good menu for this difficult-to-please customer, we made our way back onboard, just as that threatened wind materialised.  Within moments we were all on full anchor watch, and observed from a thankfully safe distance as a neighbouring yacht proceeded to drag its anchor several hundred metres, before being ‘caught’ and eventually repositioned safely.  In the end, the wind blew itself out as quickly as it had arrived, and we enjoyed a quiet final night before our guests were up with the lark (alarm) on Monday morning for a repeat in reverse of their outgoing journey.  We were glad to hear they’d arrived home safely in time for a celebratory ‘utepils’ – beer outdoors, albeit in several more layers.

To Corfu And Back

Sunday 13 – Saturday 19 June

We definitely chose the right day to move on again, Sunday being daytripper bedlam.  As usual we waited for the wind, and set off North again with full mainsail and genoa in a pleasant WSW F2-3, making water as we sailed.  With a brief top-up from the iron topsail as the wind became light and variable, a common precursor to it changing direction, we were able to maintain sail into a NNW F4, before losing the wind properly as we came into the lee of Corfu.  To maintain standards, we played with the genoa briefly, before conceding defeat but keeping the main up to give us a slight lift until we were ready to drop all sail for the final approach into the anchorage.  We tucked in under the old fortress at the outer extremity of Corfu town, dwarfed by enormous superyachts and gin palaces.

Corfu Town

We spent a happy week on the edge of civilisation, comfortable apart from violent rolling from frequent ferry wash, and outdoor music playing loud until late.  We made several trips into town to explore and shop, enjoying the attractive Venetian architecture, excellent shopping – including M&S and Body Shop! – and a Jewish synagogue where the simplicity of decor was a soothing contrast to the heavy gilding and plethora of icons in Greek Orthodox churches.  We even found Oriental street food at a noodle bar, and less British influence than we’d been led to expect by the pilot book.

On Friday it was time to head South again, as we needed to be in Levkas town for our first Covid vaccinations on 24 June.  We made good speed all the way back to Karani on Antipaxos, our longest passage this season at 33 Miles!  Saturday found us back in the anchorage just North of the marina in Preveza – the bungee (of good shopping and good friends) just too strong to resist.

Properly Back At Sea

Sunday 6 – Saturday 12 June

We waited for the wind to fill in on Sunday 6 June, before heading down-channel and finally out into the Mediterranean, a full seven months since we’d left it.  We hoisted the mainsail for the first time this season, Skipper relieved to find he’d rigged all the lines correctly, and turned North to follow the mainland shore towards Parga.  In a perfect Westerly F3-4, we set the staysail and enjoyed a close reach, until the wind veered to 300˚ and dropped to a bare F2.  We fired up Trevver to get us into our chosen anchorage before dark, and settled peacefully in pretty Two Rock Bay after a great sail and another turtle sighting.

Monday was less comfortable as a windless swell rolled in and rolled us around, so on Tuesday we set off again for our next destination, Mourtos, opposite the Southern tip of Corfu.  Once again the wind was a feisty SW F4, and the genoa with the mainsail soon established an uncomfortable angle of heel, so we changed down to the staysail.  After correcting the accidental backing of the main during the change, we gradually climbed back to a very satisfying five knots’ speed, completed a couple of tidy tacks amidst frustrating wind shifts, and finally decided to head for Antipaxos instead.  The first cruise ship we’ve seen in a long time passed a long way behind us as we settled to anchor in clear turquoise water in Karani Bay, looking over to the mainland.

Wednesday started well, with a sighting of a whole pod of dolphins feeding early in the morning.  The day deteriorated, however, and became not among our better ones…but on reflection could have been a whole lot worse.  Other yachts sharing our anchorage all had lines ashore, so we decided to do the same and give a departing boat room to retrieve their anchor.  However, we did not make enough allowance for how far off we’d anchored – our usual 50 metres scope for swing room – and soon found we didn’t have enough line in the dinghy, by about five metres.  We brought the tender back to the yacht, dug out some extra ropes, and finally got ourselves secured to rocks on the shoreline…or so we thought.

We’d intended to go ashore for a walk, but it was now late enough to decide to have lunch first, and it’s just as well we did, as we looked up to find we were about a boat length from said rocky shore.  This is when we remembered how long it takes to retrieve a shore line to make an escape: never a speedy possibility.  We got there in the end, and then spent nearly an hour trying to re-anchor in a spot of sand without rocks or Posidonia sea-grass, the right distance from the edges of the bay.  We ended up exactly where we’d begun the day before.

Postcard from Antipaxos

On Thursday we paddled together onto the pebble beach, pulled l’arrêt well up above the water line in case of waves from swell or wash from trip boats now beginning to appear again, and set off up the steep rocky path to explore the island, all 2×1.5 miles of it.  The sun shone, wildflowers were abundant, birdsong was clear and the fragrances were warm pine and grasses, sweet wild honeysuckle and jasmine.  Buildings were few and far between, set among olive groves and vineyards, and at the end of a sloping track was the most beautiful turquoise bay, and a beach taverna open for lunch.  Eventually we set off back up the hill, enjoying the views across the sparkling sea to Paxos and the Greek mainland.

Approaching Gaios, Paxos
from the South
Sunset on Paxos

Friday was a day of two halves, the morning spent motoring an hour North to anchor just South of the harbour of Gaios on Paxos: a sheltered delight, and blissfully quiet when we realised we’d timed it right and were leaving just as a trip boat was disgorging its day’s load of tourists.  We made a brief tour of the shops before motoring another couple of miles up the East coast to a peaceful, pretty anchorage. We stayed through Saturday to enjoy a refreshing swim to the beach, Mate’s first of the season, to cool down after some strenuous needlework.

In the Gulf of Amvrakikos

Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 June

We landed the dinghy on the edge of a convenient tiny harbour for local small fishing craft, and strolled along the beach walk into Vonitsa town.  Our first stop was the town quay, to check out the options for coming in to top up our water tanks, as the water in the Gulf did not look clean enough for us to make our own onboard.  There we found our old friends ‘Why Not!’ from the boatyard, and were invited aboard for coffee and a catch up.  Their cute puppy is now a mostly grown good-sized dog, but still well-behaved and friendly.

By the time we left it was lunchtime, so we tried out Molos, the taverna on the quay they’d recommended, and enjoyed a very good lunch, in spite of Mate managing to throw a full glass of water all over the table – even before starting on the wine.  We then made our way to the top of the high street to the supermarket, and took it all back to the boat for a quiet evening.

On Wednesday we went ashore again, this time in walking boots, to hike up the hillside to the chapel built into the rock face.  It was painted white and clearly visible from the (first) approach path, but the track was closed off by a very makeshift, but no less clear, fence barring our way.  We tried another route with equally little success, and a short skid back down the scree by one member of the team, before slogging up the edge of the main road to the last option, a sort of forestry track passable by an all-terrain vehicle.  Here we disturbed a black snake on a patch of dry bare soil, and were later advised that this species is the only poisonous one in Greece.

Looks promising…
…or not

The sign from the road did not suggest the chapel was inaccessible, but far enough along not to be visible from the road, it became apparent that we were not welcome, and we gave up and returned to the boat.

On Thursday we pottered around the islet and completed our second successful Med-mooring, stern to the quay with the anchor out front, to fill up with water and buy fresh bread.  On this occasion we tucked between other yachts, but all went smoothly.  Mate took the opportunity to use the water we were taking on to clean the heads (bathroom) and galley (kitchen), and Skipper ensured the decks were dusted off and the windows offered a view once again.

On our way back out into the Gulf, we struggled to raise the anchor and discovered we’d managed to hook an old, discarded concrete block securing a redundant ‘lazy line’.  These make Med mooring easier as they substitute for the anchor, and are picked up with a boat hook as the yacht is slid into the space.  We dragged the block several metres away from the quay in our attempts to release our anchor, but eventually we were free with no damage done to our boat or the town quay.

Once out on the water, we found the wind had blown up to its usual afternoon strength, which would give us a reasonable sail to the ‘top right’ ie NE corner of the Gulf, but a hard beat back to our planned anchorage in the lee of a lagoon midway along the North shore.  As the direct line was only six miles, we decided to give the engine a good run, which would give us plenty of hot water to enjoy showers later.  The new Brunton’s Autoprop, a feathering model where the blades fold in when not in use, improving our streamlining and hydro-dynamics, was put through its paces in a choppy sea, and we were glad to settle at anchor in shallow water out of the line of fetch from the wind.

On Friday morning, Mate was again delegated the job of anchor retrieval, after Skipper had decided the sea bed was sandy and we’d lay out all the chain that had acquired unpleasant growth and muck on Preveza town quay – 40 metres was about twice the length we actually needed.  Unfortunately, the chain came up thick with slimy green pondweed and other grime, that took ages to pick and poke off, along with copious quantities of mud.  She was rewarded with several sightings of turtles on the way back to Preveza, where we ended up two slots South of our previous berth.  We made the docking difficult for ourselves by leaving the dinghy tied up alongside, which affected our approach line, but we got there in the end.

We made the most of one night back in civilisation with a quick dash around all the services and shops we’d enjoyed on our extended stay here, and dinner with the lovely Tina at Taverna Mythos on the town quay.

On the Saturday we escaped the clutches of the town (without having been charged for our stay), and once again enjoyed a much quieter night in the nearby anchorage.

And…we’re back!!

Monday 31 May 2021

Yes, it has been a long time since anything appeared here – because we haven’t been sailing, and have filled the time doing things other than bringing the blog up to date.  Mate will attempt to rectify this situation over the next few weeks, but meanwhile we are delighted to be able to report – at last – that we are not only back on the water, but actually travelling again!

Having spent a mostly comfortable eight weeks enjoying the hospitality of Preveza town quay, roughly in the middle of the Greek Ionian Sea, we finally let go late on Thursday afternoon to motor around the perimeter wall of the marina to the anchorage just to the North.  It was wonderful to feel the boat moving with the will of the water again, turning gently to keep her bow to the wind while at anchor.

We spent Friday and Saturday replacing all the running rigging – the ropes that pull the sails up and control them when they are flying – that Skipper spent the last few weeks soaking and washing in copious amounts of fresh water and clothes washing liquid, and now l’escale smells clean all around her decks from the fabric conditioner he also applied liberally!  The foresails went back on the furlers at the bow on Sunday morning, and after lunch we pulled up the anchor and set the genoa for a lovely downwind sail into the Gulf of Amvrakikos.

The bridge to Nisis Koukouvitsa – the arches are lit by the setting sun

The summer afternoon sea breezes are well-established here already, and the wind was a good F5 westerly at times, allowing us to skim along at an exhilarating six knots.  We made two clean gybes to navigate the curve of the channel, seemingly the only yacht on the water, and tucked into the welcome shelter of the Eastern side of Nisis Koukouvitsa, a pretty wooded islet joined to the shore near Vonitsa by a five-arched stone bridge and a land spit.  A tiny chapel nestles among the fragrant pine trees, and we’re already clocking up wildlife sightings: one large dolphin, and several turtles, plus pelicans and herons.

On Monday morning we prepared the dinghy to go ashore, which wore us out so we lazed around in the cockpit for the rest of the day, enjoying the peace and quiet.  Tomorrow we’ll go ashore early before the wind fills in, do a few errands and perhaps explore the Venetian castle on the hill at the other end of the town, or even find the chapel that is built into the facing hillside – literally into the rock wall…

September in Sardinia Part III

After a couple of days of maintenance and rest, we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon’s sailing while the wind lasted, and when it gave up for the evening, we tucked into a very pretty anchorage off Nora, Sardinia’s famous Roman city.  The following morning we visited the site, beautifully preserved and a fascinating insight into the lives of this ancient civilisation.  We walked into Pula for a supermarket shop, and on the way back made the mistake of trying to pick prickly pears growing wild on the roadside.  A very kind local man stopped his car when he saw our discomfort, and managed not to laugh at our foolishness as he tried to mime and explain in impossibly rapid Italian, or possibly Sardinian dialect, that we should have put thick gloves on first.  We were still finding painful spines days later.  As we returned to the beach and our dinghy, a wedding was in progress on the sand – very romantic in the sunset.

On Sunday 20 September we returned once again to Marina Piccola with a pleasant afternoon’s sailing, and the following day took our bikes ashore, to cycle a round trip of 30km on some of the worst main road surfaces yet encountered, to fill one of our 20-litre (10kg) gas bottles and check out the ‘local’ Carrefour.  We made this trip twice in a matter of days, the best bits being the ride along the 7km of beach, on designated and smooth cycle tracks, and through the protected reed-fringed wetlands of the Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius towards Quartu Sant’Elena.  These freshwater and brackish pools attract nesting, migrant and wintering birds in their thousands. We were lucky to spot flamingos, little egrets and marsh harriers, but the sandwich terns, black-winged stilts and purple herons proved elusive.  A dolphin visited the anchorage whilst we were there.

Finally on Thursday 24th we made our way into Cagliari marina, mindful of some inclement weather forecast as imminent.  This would be the first time we’d have to pay for berthing since we left Valencia three months ago – a boost to our budget in the interim.  We chose Marina del Sole and were welcomed by a friendly and helpful marinero, which made up somewhat for the curiously unsophisticated facilities at this city port marina.  On our first morning we suffered a rude awakening from a German yacht arriving alongside our berth in strong winds, and later on our other side an Italian school boat returned to his berth without heed of the unsociable hour.

Two days later we suffered another rude awakening as the German boat attempted to leave, snagging  across our bow lines in a difficult crosswind.  After a lot of failed manoeuvring, the marina staff resorted to cutting our upwind lazy line to free them, having first roped us to the upwind yacht.  Unfortunately, Skipper hurt his back trying to help.

Altogether we spent nine nights in the marina, and made the most of easy access to land to enjoy a variety of walks, explore the attractive old city, indulge in some delicious meals out, visit the fascinating museum Museo Archaelogico Nazionale with artefacts and information illustrating the ancient Nuraghic civilisation unique to Sardinia, and get haircuts.  In between, we made new friends of a British couple who live in the French Alps and sail an Italian-named yacht, caught up with some routine chores and tackled some more tasks on the maintenance list.  We saw more dolphins in and around this marina than anywhere out in the open sea during the whole season – an indication of where they’re finding food, perhaps, or that they’re becoming bolder nearer land as a result of fewer boat movements?