Chios, Greece June 29 – 30, 2014

https://distillery244.com/frnew1/6814 June 29, 2014
Resting today after yesterday’s adventure. We awoke this morning to see only two other boats in the harbor, besides local fishing boats. This is a gem of a spot. The water is pristine clean and clear to the quay and all the way down to the sand and rock bottom. There is a spectacular grotto a short distance from our anchorage. Marcelo has scouted out the grotto, an amazing cave, and miles of beach with a ‘showroom sampling’ of magnificent rock faces. The three of us head out for a dinghy tour of his finds.

examples of a good dating headline A ten-foot wide break in the rocks on the eastern side of the harbor leads to a long and meandering waterway that ends at sparkling blue green pool of crystal clear water. On the right there is a small cave with a swimmable entrance. A group of eight young Greek men have been resting here from their kayaking trip from one of the nearby beaches on the island. We all smile at each other. They kindly rustle up their high school English while we share our few Greeks words. One of the young men asks us to take a picture. The group jostles boats into position to include faces and kayaks. They paddle off with their “Thank you [s]” and our “Para Calo [s]” (You’re welcome) and “Have fun”.

Young kayakers leaving the grotto
Young kayakers leaving the grotto
We are alone in the grotto. Lovely, lovely. What a moment! But it is soon interrupted by a small dinghy going way too fast for this shallow and narrow passage. We decide it is time to move on and head for the large double entranced cave on the west side of the entrance to the harbor. We slowly motor our dinghy inside the cave with its 20-meter high ceilings. The water is a silky blue and black and so clear that the underwater rocks seem closer than they are…except for one. Marcelo kindly suggests that he get in the water and Tom and I motor to the entrance. He will take our picture with the cave entrance framing us. This wonderful photo of Tom and I is taken about two seconds before our dinghy’s propeller hits a rock. Tom and I are shouting commands to each other, “Put it in neutral”, “Raise the engine” while, I am sure Marcelo is thinking ‘All they had to do was motor ten feet away! Luckily, the blade was not bent and the pin did not sheer. We did, however get a great picture.
Great Photo - Marcelo taking this picture from inside the cave.
Great Photo – Marcelo taking this picture from inside the cave.

http://vagnvagensbygg.se/firmenit/39 The relief of no long term damage to the engine and the magic of where we were and what we were seeing brought about instant amnesia for our mini-mishap. We were off perusing the beaches and rock faces. We could hear the people on the shore clomping across the beautiful volcanic black pebbles of Mavra Volia Beach and watch young teens, boys trying to impress girls mostly, dive from a rock outcropping 15 meters to the sea. Each section of the beach has its signature look, varying in pebbles or stones and uniquely different rock faces, attracting patrons that seemed to match the individual environ. Of course, at the end of every beach there are some nudists. Generally, these bodies reflect no standards and the least appealing bodies belong to the greatest exhibitionists. Still, in one instance, a man’s nudity rendered the rock face behind him a haute d’art feel. Quite spectacular.

Rock face and friend - haute d'art
Rock face and friend – haute d’art
Our dinghy tour was the best possible form of ‘joy riding’. Back to the boat to share photos on our computers and then went to dinner at Taverna Porto Emborious, a Lonely Planet recommendation and a step above most of the tavernas on the quay.

http://fireflycoaching.co.uk/events/ June 30, 2014
Tom and I arrange for a car rental through Emporios Bay Hotel (Ormos Emporious Chios 82 102 Greece, Tel: +30 227 10 70 183, www.emporiosbay.com) just one street back from the harbor. It is a lovely family-owned and run apartment/hotel. It had a comforting atmosphere and even a pool. I met a few folks from Los Angelos, traveling with a Greek friend/family member, who knew the good spots and could speak the language. I asked them about the rooms and they gave a very good review.

http://www.negocioseninternetrentables.com/flomance/2243 The goal is to travel to Nea Moni, a World Heritage Site in central Chios, then over to Chios Town and back around the southern half of Chios. We head north to Pyrigi and up through Mesta. In retrospect, I think Mesta deserved a better look with its two churches of the Taxiarhes (Archangels) and exhibit on Masticulture. Still, Tom and I must be time sensitive. Things close in Greece between 2 and 6 or 7pm and we wanted to visit the monastery here. For many years and still today, the island grows ‘mastic’ used to make gum. The Sultans back in the day of the Ottoman Empire (around 1453 to 1820…google it, check your history books) loved the mastic gum from Chios and the island benefitted greatly from that interest. During the 1820s, Chios staged an attack on the Ottoman Empire to gain their freedom. The Ottomans made an example of the island and a brutal slaughter followed. One third of the population was killed and almost two-thirds were sold into slavery.

free usa christian online dating site We arrive at Nea Moni, a monastery that is now a nunnery per The Lonely Planet Guide, an oasis with its tall cedar trees in the midst of a beige landscape dotted with olive trees. (Until this year, I always thought that Greece must have fresh water challenges. The landscape appears arid. Wherever I go, I ask this question, “Is water a problem?” The answer is the same, “No, we have lots of water, both shallow wells and artesian wells.” In every town, the graveyards are built with mounds above ground, testimony to the truth of this statement.) It is Monday and the monastery and the museum are CLOSED. No guidebook tells us this. A monk / priest walks the grounds and keeps the door to the courtyard open not to disappoint every unsuspecting tourist that shows up. Still, the Ossuary is open (where they keep the bones of monks and other special individuals honored with burial in the church). It is dramatic with its chest full of skulls. Apparently, during the retribution, more than 600 monks and approximately 2,500 men, women and children who sought sanctuary in the Monastery were killed here. We chat a bit with the priest who speaks “a little” English. He tells us that about 9 monks still come to this monastery. He recites their names to give us the total. We wander the grounds, take our photos and leave for Chios Town.

rencontre une femme musulmane Every island has a footprint different from the last. Fires have been a problem on this island, and we do see a “watch station” to check for the next outbreak. We pass scorched trees in many areas. Earthquakes have broken the road and landslides are frequent. It is still a beautiful island…a survivor of difficult times. We arrive in Chios Town, home to half of the islands inhabitants. It is busy and crowded and we drive through quickly dodging motorcycles and autos that have an Italian-style wild abandon to their driving. Just outside the town we stop for lunch at Dionysus restaurant and enjoy a good meal with the pleasant service of our kind English-speaking waitress. We choose the restaurant because of the crowd. It turns out to be a Scandinavian Tour Group?? (Judging from our guess at the language) but we are still happy with our choice.

Tom and I start our return drive to Emborios Port. We have massages at the Hotel from this lovely young woman who calls herself ‘Nancy’ but whose real name is ‘Anastasia’. She is a fabulous masseuse, who spent a half hour after I pay her, explaining different exercises to help my arm and shoulder and decrease headaches. I could not resist giving her a hug for her kindness and making sure to tell the hotel owner how lucky he is to have her working for them. I am a ‘new’ Rita! Dinner on the boat tonight. Marcelo makes an excellent spinach and anchovy pasta. The movie is a Chinese film called “In the Mood for Love”; each scene could be a framed painting. The story line is very good and it ranks around 230 on Imdb’s best 1000 movies.

Wild Ride from Skyros to Chios June 28, 2014

June 28, 2014

It only 5 am and Pakilar is getting ready for the 90 mile trip to Chios. The sun isn’t out yet. I hear lots of things, all of which seem to be happening on the overhead directly over my bunk. Marcelo and Tom are storing gear, taking in lines from the shore and setting other lines up on the power winches for our sail today. My ears also clearly detect the sound of strong winds outside. The Weather Bureau predicts 17 knots from the northeast. We are heading southeast, so we hope for a steady sail on a beam reach. The guys push off without my expert help and within twenty minutes I can tell there is more than 20 knots of wind and that the seas are confused and the wave height bigger than predicted. Just getting dressed is a trick. On a boat the best rule is ‘One hand for the boat and one hand for you’. But it is hard to put on underwear with one hand. Anything but sitting and bracing is difficult when you are down below in weather. I survive being thrown against a couple of bulkheads. Strangely, I put on a pair of gold earrings. I smile to myself remembering that sailors throughout history wore a single gold earring to repay the townsfolk who might find their swept overboard body and give it a proper burial.

I push open the hatch cover, closed to keep the waves and spray out of the boat, and climb out on deck. I can feel my eyes open wider. The waves are huge and erratic and there is an amazing amount of wind. The predicted 17 knots of wind have climbed to 35 and now there is an occasional gust to 45 knots. We are holding a beam to broad reach and we are above the rhumb line (upwind and more favorable for holding our course) to our destination. Still, I can actually feel my eyes dilate as I take in my environment. The main is double-reefed and we are flying at 7.8 to 9 knots, surfing down waves at a high of 10.2.

Wild ride on Pakilar
Wild ride on Pakilar
Wild ride on Pakilar
Wild ride on Pakilar
The crests of the waves are running in a hundred directions like patrons in a restaurant fire desperately running for assorted and unmarked “Exit” doors. Tom and Marcelo take turns at the helm dodging waves resolute to crash into us broadside. I look back to see a wave building off our stern that is taller than a standing Marcelo at the helm. I want to say, “Hurry up, Marcelo, they are gaining on us. Run!” Waves crash over us, more water topside than we have seen in many seasons. There is an evil sound whirling through the rigging. It is that ‘dark and stormy’ night sound of the wind that you hear in horror movies. I am grateful that we have bright sunlight to dispel that eerie feeling. I tuck in close to the dodger and loop an arm around a winch to keep from pitch poling off the deck and sit mesmerized. There is a distant mystical and plaintive whine behind me. It reminds me of the reverberating calls put in movies about desert tribesman. The sound is comforting and I begin to understand how such vocalizations in the face of nature’s vastness are a natural response. A utube video of our sail today can be found at http://youtu.be/lHiHGUwXG6Q

Over time, there are small moments of respite where it is possible to move. I am getting very wet and feel that my only potential contribution, falling overboard, would not help my brave and competent companions. Man overboard drills often consist of only being told “Don’t’ Fall Overboard.” I head back down below. Luckily, I don’t get seasick. I remain below, popping up with drinks or a bowl of pasta when needed. Suddenly I hear a lot of “Wow!” s coming from Tom and Marcelo. Dolphins are playing with the waves by our boat. After a while, the dolphins mirror their leaps into the air and surfing down waves with Pakilar’s. It is a beautiful synchronized show for a limited but grateful audience.

Dolphin mimicing Pakilar's leap and ride down a surging sea
Dolphin mimicing Pakilar’s leap and ride down a surging sea
The wind slowly but steadily become less and more consistent and the sea is now just a pot of water on low boil. We are running down wind, flat and fast at 7.8 knots with postage stamp-sized sails. Small, beautiful Emborios Harbor on Chios is ahead. We anchor near the rocky hilled entrance next to a small church and run lines to the shore to keep us from swinging. Tom and Marcelo are salt-encrusted. Where is the marguerite mix? What a waste of good salt! Dinner at one of the very small tavernas on shore. The low evening light shines on Pakilar. Great boat! Great day!
P.S. Brazil 2 – Chile 1!!

Heading Southeast and Retracing Steps – June 23-27, 2014

June 23, 2014

We are retracing steps…one more time in some of our favorite places…and heading east and south. The wind is light again today so we power to Alonnisos. (The Northern Sporades are quickly becoming my favorite islands in the Greek chain. The only drawback is lighter wind. Closer to Dodecanese and the Turkish Coast, it often blows 20 to 30 knots. Great sailing! Of course, you can also get a meltemi (storm) with 40 knot winds that blow for days, leaving you harbor bound.) We are lucky to get the spot on the town quay with electricity.   Tom has called Claudia Tobias from the shop “Loukaki” and asked her to come to dinner with us ashore. Claudia comes for a drink on the boat before and we hear a bit of her history. Born in Deauville in Normandy, France, Claudia has lived everywhere…Iran, England, California, and now Greece for the past 20 years. Very nice and very interesting!

We head to dinner at the “To Akrogiali” Restaurant in the Patitiri Harbor-Alonnissos Tel: 24240 65236. As you face the shore, it is the last restaurant on your left. At Claudia’s suggestion, Tom and I try the local sausages. They are delicious with some wonderful spices. Marcelo has the sardines…again. Marcelo loves the sardines here in the Sporades but tells me not to put it in the blog because his mother will make him eat them when he comes home to Brazil. I can understand this. I don’t like the sardines back at home either. The sardines here are bigger and more flavorful. Alonnisos is a small island and like all small towns/islands, everyone knows every detail of your life. It is difficult for Claudia to walk for than a few feet before fellow town folk engage her in conversation. Claudia encourages us to visit the neighboring bay and try one of her favorite restaurants and describes the ‘specialties’ we should try. Another fun night ends and we head back to the boat and check our emails before bed. The phone rings and it is our son Jake. He was at a wedding in Detroit and then had to drive to Cincinnati for business. He shares his Skype view of downtown Cincinnati. Tomorrow, June 24th is Jake’s birthday. The clock turns midnight here in Greece and Tom, Marcelo and I sing “Happy Birthday” to Jake at exactly 12:01 am Greece time. Great end to the day!

June 24, 2014

Stopped at a couple of shops on the walking street today in Alonnisos to make a few totally unnecessary but wonderful purchases – sandals and a new top. We are heading to Steni Vala, a small fishing village in a neighboring bay next to Patitiri with what we hope is a deep enough port for Pakilar’s 3.2 meter draw. Steni Vala is very charming but small and the depth is on the edge of what we need. Tom and Marcelo decide that it is wiser to anchor in the bay just above called Agios Petros (Saint Peter). It only took me two months in Greece to figure out the ‘Agios’ means ‘saint’!  The water is crystal clear and it has a small but nice sandy beach. Only two other small boats are in the bay. We anchor and run two lines to the shore off our stern.   Summer is here after a cool spring. Marcelo is off for his regular hour swim with these resistance gloves that exercise the arms while swimming. Very impressive! Tom and I don our snorkels masks and explore the bay. This is a big deal for me. I just learned to swim about three years ago and choosing to be in the water and swimming for any distance is quite a landmark accomplishment. What I would have missed (what I have missed before I learned to swim but I will not dwell on that) if I did not go swimming today.   Lovely flora, refreshing clear cool water, small fish, and the total serenity of floating, hearing only your own breath!

One of the other two boats carries a British flag and a Russian speaking couple. We surface near where they are swimming and say hello. (Listening closely for any plans they might have for invading the Balkans!) We check out their anchor, our anchor, and the third boat’s anchor just for the sport of it. Marcelo, as usual, always insists on diving to check the set of our Ultra anchor. It provides great peace of mind. The sun is getting lower in the sky, so we head back to the boat, shower, and put in the dinghy to head to dinner around the corner in Steni Vala.

First stop is a visit to Kostas Mavrikis. Both Thannasus in Skopelos and Claudia in Alonnisos said that we must meet Kostas, who is responsible for the creation of the “Folklore Museum of the Northern Sporades” in Alonnisos and writing of 3 books with a 4th in progress on the topic. We were fortunate to have him autograph his book “These Scattered isles: Alonnisos & the Lesser Northern Sporades” Edited and translated by Anthony Hirst. Kostas is a self-described simple fisherman with a love for his island and the history of the region. He was a diver that now runs his Café & Market in Steni Vali. We stop for a drink but a longer conversation with Kostas is interrupted with precious calls from children.

We have dinner at Tassia’s Restaurant on the far left as you face the shore. This high ceilinged large restaurant looks more like an event site until the tables were filled, which happened very quickly. The food here was excellent. Of course, I had some fried zucchini! Who should appear while we were at dinner but Claudia from Patitiri and a few friends who were joining her for dinner at Tassia’s. Returned to Kostas’ Café to watch the end of the World Cup game and back in the dinghy for the ride to Agios Petros and our wonderful bunks.

June 25, 2014

The wind picked up in the middle of the night and we rolled a bit in our bunks.  Glad the anchor was secure.  Marcelo was up checking in the wee morning hours to make sure. Awoke to the sound of the engine.  We are heading southeast and the wind is coming, of course, from the southeast.  “On the nose,” as sailors say.   The planned next stop is Skyros, about 35 to 40 miles away from Alonnisos.  We power into the wind with moderate seas.  Tom decides that it would be wonderful to enjoy the views inside the Stenon Valaxa passage between Skyros and Nisos Valaxa.  The first portion has good water and the depth we need.  The second part is marginal.  Yes, the views are spectacular with bold cliffs, fabulous caves that echo back our shouts of “Hello” and some of the clearest blue green water that we have seen in Greece.   Now we will see if we must pay a price for the pleasure we have just enjoyed.

Beautiful Rock walls of Stenon Valaxa Passage
Beautiful Rock walls of Stenon Valaxa Passage
Cliff in Stenon Valaxa passage
Cliff in Stenon Valaxa passage
Beautiful Cliffs of Stenon Valaxa passage
Beautiful Cliffs of Stenon Valaxa passage

Our brave captain Marcelo decides that he will put on his wetsuit and guide our boat through the second narrowest section of this passage.  It looked like a scene from “African Queen” with our Humphrey Bogart in front of the boat. All we needed was the line from the boat to Marcelo pulling us forward to complete the image.

Marcelo checking the depth ahead of Pakilar as we pass through
Marcelo checking the depth ahead of Pakilar as we pass through

Marcelo is in the water. I am standing at the bow and relaying his instructions to Tom at the helm. We creep along, inching our way and finally…we are through! Marcelo is back onboard and we can see Linari Harbor in Skyros ahead of us. Beautiful day, spectacular views, and the relief of a safe passage through tricky narrows. What could be better?

Cautiously we enter Linari, calling the Port Police for verification of the depth. We get a response. He says to wait a moment. Next we see a man on the quay waving to us to tie up where he is standing. Who is this rubber boot man in shorts with an oversized T-shirt, just a guy hawking boat space? We nose Pakilar in bow to and come a bit closer to him so we can yell our question? “What is the depth?” He says, “Four meters.” Four is OK if it is real.   We all look at each other and decide to back up and swing Pakilar around to come stern to. Now we are inching our way backwards. We are getting very good at creeping along to check depth.

View of Linaria Port, Skyros
View of Linaria Port, Skyros

It turns out that the man on the dock is George, “Manager of the Port” and there really is four meters at the dock. We gingerly come to the dock and George gives us the spiel on Port Regulations and facilities. I only hear half but nod politely. While tying up, we notice that the boat “Eirene” is here with Steve Anderson and his wife Pam from Knoxville, Tennessee. They share their adventures. We add lots of new ‘places to see’ to our list and decide to never repeat their Black Sea adventure…no wind, bad boat facilities, and lots of paper work. We end up all having dinner on the quay at “Taverna – Aiyaio – Psariotis” Tel: 22220 93250 and eat a fabulous fresh caught fish that we saw a fisherman bring in a cooler, hook still in the mouth, earlier in the day.

June 26, 2014

Laundry is off the boat. So nice! In Turkey they spray the laundry with rose water and in Greece they often put in a sachet of flowers / aromatic buds. It is always expensive but whenever I say to Marcelo, “How about a small washer in one of the cabins?” He looks perplexed and wisely says, ”Rita, the electricity is so high here that you would save very little and lose a lot of space.” I will stop thinking about a new mini-Maytag…until I get the next laundry bill.

Rented a car today. We had to go through a few agencies before finding an available car. Ended up with a peppy little Hyundai 110, a four door easily able to handle the hills here. A sign right on the dock lists all sorts of helpful phone numbers for boaters and Manager of the Port George has given us his card and encouraged us to call.   Tom and I drive to Skyros Town. Marcelo decides to take a break today. First stop will be the Manos Faltaits Museum, a Folk Art Museum…if we can ever find it. Signage is terrible for both the Folk Art and the Archaeological Museum. We run into a couple of tourists in a car who have given up on locating the Archaeological Museum. We walk back and forth and up and down dusty roads on this very hot day and finally find the museums. At the small square with the statue of English Poet Rupert Brooke, there is a driveway on the left going downhill that looks like you are going to a residential neighborhood. Walk down 150 meters and on your right is a small sign on an entry way for the Manos Faltaits Museum. The museum building descends into the hillside – cave like. This was Manos Faltaits home and rooms are set up in the style of the period. There is a very large, and well organized ‘for its size, collection of ‘everything’ from household tools, linens, statues, pottery, clothing, and a collection of Manos’ somewhat Picasso-style paintings. The museum is worth seeing and the two docents greatly enhance the experience. These two men serve as volunteers and are quite knowledgeable. They go out of their way to show us the highlights of their museum…opening doors and turning on lights to rooms we would never know existed. God Bless the volunteer!

The Archaeological Museum is right of the Rupert Brooke Square. Face the sea to the right of the square and look for steps going down the side of the cliff (Do not go down the road to the right, as we did.). The museum is right near the square. At the bottom of the steps the museum is on your left. It contains “The Findings of Palamari” a archaeological site on the north end of Skyros with artifacts from the 3rd and 2nd BC. It is well exhibited and has a quite nice collection of bronze artifacts. It took them a long time to make a nail. We should appreciate their efforts.

Rita sa the entrace of Faltaits Museum
Rita sa the entrace of Faltaits Museum

Enough museums for us. We decide to circumnavigate the island. What a surprise with the topography. We come from the sea and rolling hills to a gorge-like fir tree forested region followed by plains and then ending at the northern tip and the sea once more. We drive past the sign for the archeological site and the airport. The airport dead ends and our old bones do not have the energy for excavation pits and ‘closed’ signs. Glad we took the drive. There are a number of beautiful scenic beaches and an occasional intriguing taverna. Take a look at Atsitsa and the Taverna Antonis. Wish we could have stopped. The primary roads are generally good.

We overlook the narrow passage we navigated to get to Skyros…still not as dramatic as being there. In this case, a picture is not worth a thousand words.

A view from afar….a picture is not a thousand words!
A view from afar….a picture is not a thousand words!

Stenon Valaxa Passage

We overlook beautiful Laniri Harbor and see how lucky we are to be docked here. Very small and very charming! We head to Taverna – Aiyaio with Marcelo to watch the USA vs. Germany World Cup Game 0 – 1.

Amazing! AT 7:30 when the Skyros Ferry pulls in, from loud speakers on the shore, they play the theme from 2001 Space Odessey!   It happens each and every time. I love it. It makes me

One turn after the other brings us beautiful roadside view of Skyros Bays
One turn after the other brings us beautiful roadside view of Skyros Bays

smile. Someone has the sense of the moment. May I be one of those people? Whenever I think of this, even now, I smile!

Stopped at a very nice bar with a great view of the Linari Harbor and run into George, our Harbor Manager. He tells us, “Greece tries to kill you with a spoon.” He pats a round belly that matches mine, a result of our visit in the Greek Isles. We get a couple of recommendations. We smile politely and remember little…names are not spelled the same, what he thinks is a split in the road is straight for us yatta, yatta, yatta! Still, it was kind of him. The three of us head to dinner at Marco Polo in Skyros Town.   This rooftop restaurant over the town square had little or no atmosphere but very good food but no red wine or desserts. Italian restaurant WITHOUT red wine…a first! Marcelo has SARDINES, again! (If you are reading this. Nancy, you must know that Marcelo LOVES Sardines but you can NEVER ask him to eat them in Brazil.)

June 27, 2014
Last day in Skyros. It is a lazy morning for me. Tom and Marcelo are up early as usual. We are returning the car this morning, so they head out for gas since the stations were closed last night. On their way, the stop at a woodworking shop that Tom and I saw on the road yesterday. It is early but the shop is the home of the Lefteris Avgoklouris and Emmanouela Toliou: Wood carved furniture handmade and ornamental and useful art objects. Tel 22220 91106 www.augoklouris.weebly.com email: ymme_61@yahoo.gr
Tom and Marcelo tell me that the husband is the best woodworker that we have seen so far. This woodworker also makes these small chairs that we have seen all over Greece. We mistook them for a child’s chair but they are also for adults.
“Incredibly comfortable,” my husband tells me. The wife is an artist and paints items of her husband’s work.

It is the usual stop at the grocery store, shore showers, and water tank filing. Evening is upon us; Tom and I want to watch the ferry come in again to the blasting of 2001 Space Odyssey over the loud speakers. Marcelo graciously declines and Tom and I head up to Kavas Bar (spelled “Cabos” on the sign) a hillside bar perched over the Linari Harbor. Just a short walk up the left hand road as you are facing the shore, you will see the multi-balconied Cabos/Kavas bar with its white umbrellas. We meet Vasilios, our bartender and he makes us a caipirinha in a salute to Brazil’s hopeful win tomorrow night. We decide to salute twice with a second caipirinha. The ferry schedule is different tonight so the usual extravaganza upon its arrival will not happen until 10. We amble our way “slowly” down the hill to the boat and see Harbor Manager George, who we thank for his professionalism and help and tell him we hope to return in September. George has us sign the guest book for the Harbor and tells us that if we call him, he will make sure there is a space for us at the dock. When we arrived, George made a point of welcoming each of us personally and was a one-man hospitality center. He is an asset for the Port. Back to the boat where Marcelo has made a delicious mushroom pasta. Tom and I decline wine with dinner, since it might necessitate an AA meeting or some kind of intervention. Watched the movie “Sheltering Skys”, based on a Paul Bowl book, with Debra Winger and John Malcovitch in the leads. Very interesting. Cinematography is terrific. The book became a kind of existentialist bible for some. Off to bed for an early morning off the dock.

 

Skopelos and Skiathos June 18 – 22, 2014

 June 18, 2014

Tom, Marcelo and I have our different missions this morning but head off together.   The guys are trying to find a tennis court and I am looking desperately for a hairdresser. Tom did some excellent groundwork before this expedition, making calls to various hotels on the island to locate a court.  Note to self: When an English-speaking receptionist does not understand the word “tennis”, it is a good sign that they do not have a ‘tennis’ court.

My plan is to piggyback on their locating an upscale hotel that might also have or can recommend a hairdresser. Gray has never been a good look for me. After walking almost 3 km to the other side of the Old Harbor, one of the hotels gives me some general directions to the only hairdresser on the island. I part ways with the boys. They are only another 10 minutes away of wandering from finding the courts…admirable effort.

Looping up and through various streets, I do find the one and only beauty salon. No one speaks English in the shop. On two separate occasions, I stand frozen outside debating the risk to reward ratio of having them color and cut my hair. I decide that I will avoid close-up photographs for a while and not chance spending the rest of the day in tears and buying headscarves. I start browsing. I enter a kitchen store with an organized window display but an interior that looks like an episode of the TV show “Hoarders”. I don’t know how anyone finds anything in this shop. A lovely English speaking Greek lady helps me make my exciting purchase…a pair of kitchen scissors.   Her husband/father manages the cash register and takes about 10 minutes to print my receipt and give me change. Every detail of the transaction is a ritual for him. I guess we know who organizes the kitchen wares!

A man reading this blog will not believe what I am about to say. ‘I don’t like to shop.’ My husband Tom is ten times the shopper, with a great eye in his selections and getting the best value for his dollar. Sometimes I realize that I need to improve my look. Maybe it is the molting look that I have lately with my gray hair and sunburned nose.  “Mythos” is the name of this ladies dress shop and it stands out above the rest in quality and uniqueness. Tel: 24240 24630   Pitsoun7@gmail.com and Tanasus is the owner.   As you go up the second of the three uphill walking streets, take a left (but do not stop in unless you speak Greek) at the hairdresser’s and follow the curve as it starts to go downhill. Mythos is on your left. Tanasus is honest with me about what looks good and what doesn’t, as I try things on. I notice many pieces of original artwork in the store and ask if he is a painter. Later, I casually mention to Tom that he would enjoy the painter / shopkeeper Tanasus and before I know it all three of us are back in Mythos before dinner and Tom and Tanasus are chatting away.

Thannasus and Rita in "Mythos" Linen Store in Skopelos, Greece
Thannasus and Rita in “Mythos” Linen Store in Skopelos, Greece

While I was in town trying to address the hair issue, a Swedish-made boat named “Alma” pulled in next to us. The owners are a Scottish / English couple, Ian and Helen, who moved from England to Malta and have three grown children living back in London. Tom sees them at a Taverna sipping wine and using the internet “…catching up with work” and I officially meet them. They join us for a repeat dinner at Lo Perivoli. Excellent food, once again, and a wonderful evening.on 3 Evaggelistrias, Tel:  24270 23276

June 19, 2014

Tom invites Tanassus to visit the boat and see computer photos of our art collection. He arrives at 8:30 this morning and kindly brings “cheese pie”, a phylo-wrapped cheese that is deep-fried. Delicious but dangerous! Marcelo says, “Isn’t this the dish made famous in Alonnisos.” Tanassus raises an eyebrow and says, “This is a Skopelos specialty! After a couple hours of art viewing, we exchange contact information with Tanassus and our Scottish / English boat neighbors and head off for Skiathos.

To reach Skiathos, we round the southern shore of Skopelos and then head north.   Perched on a large rock outcropping on the Skopelos shore, we see a church and outbuilding.   “Mama Mia, what a spot!” Actually, this is the church they used for the film Mama Mia.” Ads are everywhere. ‘See the sites used for the film!” and here is one of the most memorable. Of course, this leads to a discussion of how terrible the film was. I agree…now, I can only watch it in secret.

The Skiathos town quay gives an inaccurate initial impression. It is a bit noisy and filled with tavernas and tacky tourist shops. The ferry terminal and taxi stands are at our doorstep. We are all starved and end up at “Pasta Express” directly across from the taxi station / ferry port. The pasta is shockingly good and al dente.   Hunger drew us here and we had low expectations but my pasta with ham and bacon was quite good…light cream sauce and lots of flavor. We are pleasantly surprised when we actually start exploring our new destination.   Quite wonderful!

The broad and long main walking street is filled with upscale, unique and interesting wares. Tom and I are looking for a gift for a dear friend (who may be reading this blog from time to time) and we find an olive wood item here in Skiathos that is quite special. “Our store focuses on what is local, the finest quality and all natural,” says the owner of “Olive Tree Skiathos – Elia” Tel +30 24270 29077 www.olivetree-skiathos.com. Worth stopping if you like olivewood and want something top quality. ERGON, a Greek Deli and Cuisine is also on the main shopping street and has those specialty items that can really do the trick for a great boat pasta. Wish we had stocked up on a few more items.

After getting a few recommendations from those who might know i.e. a finer women’s dress store, nail salon, I make an appointment to get my hair done…scary! There are reasons that women keep a hairdresser for 20 years and that these professionals become spiritual aids and confessors. I have spoken to the shop’s owner and they carry better products and she looks like a pro…I hope.   I make an appointment for tomorrow. I tuck it in the back of my mind and enjoy my surroundings.

The old and new harbor makes a “Z”. The harbor’s far left arm “Old Port” (as you face the shore) sports a monument, a long row of restaurants and lit cupolas. Charming nighttime effect. The middle harbor is the noisier but still manageable quay. The far right arm of the New Port has a number of nice-looking restaurants and has a quieter feel.   We have dinner at one of them called En Plo Tel: 30 24270 24433 www.enploskiathos.com. The food is international and very good. The wine is a bit expensive but the atmosphere is quite nice and the staff is stellar.

June 20, 2014

Eureka! My hair looks great. Rania inn Coiffure at #4 Pnya Peppalou; Tel: 24270 22002 is a winner. What a relief! Ladies, explain this to your husbands.

It is time for some provisioning, so Marcelo and I head off on a long walk to a disappointing market that is at the end of the walking street and down the ring road. For a much better and closer market turn right as you face the shore and follow the road past the port police, slightly uphill on your right to the ASTEPAS Super Market (“s” looks like a funny E in Greek). They store manager gave us and our groceries a ride back to the boat and a “complimentary” couple of bottles of wine. Very nice and smart marketing! Boaters need boat delivery.

Tom and Marcelo have found a Tennis Club up near the Port Police. It also has a swimming pool and you can pay to play or swim. The courts are clay and the staff is very nice and helpful. They help us plan an itinerary for a car rental and touring day tomorrow.   After a shower, we are all off down the walking street to locate Maria’s Pizza, a Trip Advisor recommendation. On the way, Tom insists that I go into a fine women’s dress shop named Anna P. Gerard Designs (Real name is Pappadapoulos but translates as Gerard for the label. The dress store manager, mother of Anna Gerard, recommended and actually walked me to the hairdressers the day before. Tom walked into the store earlier in the day to thank her and his keen eye found this dress.) I was not initially attracted to these drape-like fabrics but they are amazing on and can fit anyone. I found a dress for my daughter Leila’s wedding. Anna P. Gerard has a Facebook page.

Found Maria’s Pizza on 3 Evaggelistrias, Tel: 24270 23276. Delicious thin crust pizza! It has a specialty store too that had some pepperoncino (hot spice) in a bottle, very fresh and very good. We eat pepperoncino on everything. It is a food group for us.

Tom and Marcelo walking into the sunset!
Tom and Marcelo walking into the sunset!

Spectacular sunset tonight…pink and blue and a bit sci-fi!

 

June 21, 2014

Tom and Marcelo play tennis in the morning and then we rent a car from Takis Car Rental for touring the island. Marcelo takes the morning to catch up on boat projects and Tom and I head to our first of two monasteries “The Abbey of Annunciation of Virgin Mary of Skiathos” built in 1789. www.evagelistria-skiathos.gr It is quite nice and well maintained (very new for a monastery) with beautiful vistas. There is quite a long walking trail that begins at the Abbey. The monks made a type of flavored ouzo and canned / glass jar fruits and jams. The Church is quite nice and relatively large for Greek Orthodox. The museum is worth the 2 euro admission. Spectacular views from the museum balcony looking out over the flat rock roofs of the Abbey.! Seven monks occupy the Abbey, ranging in age from 32 to 56.   Tom and I explore a few bays and end up at Koukounaries Bay. It has a small nature preserve and quite nice beaches. Tom follows his instincts to find a very nice beach Taverna called “Kahlua”. I have sea bream…very good but hard to find fish that isn’t farm-raised.

Skiathos is not so large that we can’t stop back at the boat and offer Marcelo a chance to see the next monastery “Moni Panagias Kounistras, renowned to have some of the best frescoes in the Aegean. The three of us find this very tiny monastery with a lovely courtyard still open at 8pm. An elderly woman caretaker is cleaning up after the day’s visitors. She speaks English and shares what she can of the Church history and gives us a brochure. She asks where we are from and we exchange information about home and children. She is one of eight children, has three of her own and five grandchildren. Amazing how a few words can convey so very much. There are no lights inside the church but she let’s us take a single photo. What we can see is lovely. Apparently, the most important fresco of the Virgin is now exhibited in a church in downtown Skiathos with limited viewing hours. Nice experience meeting this lady. We light a candle for the friend we just lost. Glad we came.

New friend at the monastery
New friend at the monastery

We show Marcelo Koukounaries Beach and a couple of our other favorites and then head back to town and to dinner. Passing the dress store, the manager pops out to tell us that her son mistakenly packed the wrong dress in my bag. They spent the day calling hotels to find us…but we are on a boat. It was very lucky that we were walking past. Good Karma! We head to dinner at The Final Step, a restaurant next to St. Nicholas Church and the Clock Tower Tel: +30 24270 21877 www.finalsteprestaurant.com. It has a wonderful view of the new harbor and the food was good.

June 22, 2014

Time to be in a bay and away from town. We head to Koukanaries Bay and anchor near “Al Maqib”, a 350 ft. power boat that is / was owned by the ruler of Qatar.

350 ft. Power Boat belonging to the former ruler of Qatar
350 ft. Power Boat belonging to the former ruler of Qatar

We watch them pull out all the boat toys…towed boats for joy riding. Looks like fun. Marcelo, as usual, dives to check our anchor and doesn’t like how close to a underground rock cropping we are. We re-anchor…Tom at the helm, me conveying directions from Marcelo, who is in the water and adjusting the anchor.   Dinner and a movie on the boat. We watch “Est-Ouest” (East – West), a French / Russian film about immigrants lured back to Russia in 1946 and the trauma they suffered. Excellent film!

 

 

 

 

Back Aboard – June 14 – 17, 2014

June 14, 2014

Returned to the boat in the Patitiri Harbor in Alonnisos today… Dublin to London by plane on Thursday night; London to Stuttgart to Thessaloniki then a car service to Volos and ferry to Skiathos on Friday, spending the night at the Plaza Hotel (not a winner) with a good dinner at a shorefront tavern; and ending with a ferry to Alonnisos via Glasso and Skopelos on Saturday (today) in the afternoon. It is good to be home. Funny how I can feel that way about a boat! In just one month’s time, to the day, I will be at my ‘real’ home in Maine. It will be time and I will be happy about that too.

Once again “The trip has expanded the spirit.” I have relearned old lessons: Family is the most important, friends can become extended family, and good people have good friends. I will remember our car service driver, Nikos, and wonder if his wife has had their second child yet. Will we ever plan a trip to his favorite place, Meteore, just a 90 minute drive from Volos and sports a monastery that made the cover of Lonely Planet for Greece? Will we remember how fabulous it was to drive past Mt. Olympus while Nikos reminds and recounts Greek mythology? Will we forget a terrifying few seconds when two cars in front of us side swipe each other and we almost careen off the road? Will we always remember how fragile life is and that we are all just tourists on a short visit?

It is so good to see Marcelo’s smiling face and learn great news! He has found a restaurant that makes fabulous crème brulee.  It also serves some terrific dishes like grilled shrimp in ouzo and cream and mussels in a special wine sauce. Tom and I unpack quickly and then the three of us head over for a late lunch and, later that night, watch the World Cup game there and have dinner.  Ostria Restaurant Tel: 2424065243   It is right on the port.

June 15, 2014

It is Father’s Day. Luckily I remember and the kids all call at different points of the day. The Alonnisos Port Police let us leave the boat at the dock with Marcelo aboard during this past week. Still, it is time to move on. That means some grocery shopping and last minute sightseeing. As you face land from the harbor, the second road on your right is a long shopping street (post office on this street) with quite a few nice shops, and a grocery store. (Strangely enough, the best grocery store is right in the harbor. It looks small but quite big once you get inside.) Of course, while we are looking for food, we come across a very interesting shop that has a wheat threshing board. It’s a curved piece of wood with a number of imbedded stones.   The shop owner Claudia Tobias spends five months a year buying wares from around the world. We found a couple of unusual pieces that will be coming home with us. The shop is called Loukaki: Home, Mind & Body Style Solutions. Patitiri Port, Alonissos, 37005 N. Sporades, Greece. Mob. +30 6977706209 cloudsolon@yahoo.com

Christina, a young woman from Lithuania who works for Claudia, tells us that the sudden surge and drop of the boat at 2:30 am on our first night here, was actually a second earthquake. Marcelo and I both had gotten up to see what was happening that night but decided it was just a bad surge. The wind comes from the north predominantly but it bends around the island of Alonnisos and creates a surge in the harbor of Patitiri. Prepare for it. We saw two smaller sailboats almost touch masts.

Christina tells us about a fabulous fruit market farther up the street on the left. Pass the post office and after the first curve of the road turns to the right, you will see it on the left. Fabulous selection! Best I have seen so far. We head back to the port grocery store, after a quick peek inside the one on the walking street, and pick up a few essentials. This shop had some gourmet items (high quality tuna in EVOO…great for salads… and specialty olive oils).   This harbor grocery store sells the usual kids plastic toys and flip flops outside but do go in and check it out.

Tom and I decide that this is our last chance to see the Old Town on this island. It is raining, so we take a taxi for the 4km drive to the khora (city center) and make sure to get the driver’s number for the ride back. You can take the bus up to the old town too but this was Sunday and we weren’t sure of the schedule. When you begin your walk back to Patitiri Harbor, there is a sign that marks a donkey path on the right side of the road. Boat friends say that this was a very long and winding trail but a very nice walk. Even in the rain, the old town is charming. Tiny little cottages line many of the streets festooned with bougainvillea and blooming cactuses. I can tell that many of the renters of these small houses are tourists. Tom and I wander up and down the various lanes. We stop in a very tiny and very old Greek Orthodox Church/Chapel. There are no lights inside. We leave the door open to get a better view of the icons and light a candle for the friend we just lost.

Small Greek Church
Small Greek Church
Rita and the Bougainvilla
Rita and the Bougainvilla
Streets in the Old Town
Streets in the Old Town

After circumnavigating the town, Tom and I stop for an espresso and a cappuccino in a café that looks more like a Viennese hunting lodge. It has a small-unlit fireplace and I drink my cappuccino in front of it.   (My Italian friends tell me that cappuccino is only a breakfast drink but I persist in being gauche and drink it at all times of day.) We call the taxi and head back to the boat to eat some excellent mushroom risotto that Marcelo has prepared. If Marcelo cooks, I clean. It is only fair. The movie tonight is “The Grand Hotel Budapest”. It was a bit long and the story line a bit weak. Still, the cinematography and miniatures for scene making were excellent. The film provoked a second day’s conversation, which is a sign of a good movie.

June 16, 2014

Light wind as we get underway. The next planned stop is Skopelos, a short distance from Alonnisos. The sky matches the Aegean blue of the sea. We tool along the coast poking into small bays along the way. We cover the 6.5 miles to Skopelos Harbor quickly. We nose our way in and get a better look at where we might tie up…close to electricity and water. A ferry comes in while we are reconnoitering. We step aside and politely and wisely let her pass. It is too early in the day and we have just been in a town for a while, so we decide to look for an anchorage. While aboard the ferry from Skiathos to Alonnisos, Tom and I had noticed a huge crescent cave along the shoreline. The goal is to find the cave, take a better look with the dinghy, and maybe anchor for the night. We do find this magnificent semi-circular gash that forms the cave and look at some small sister caves nearby with rock beaches. It is a bold shore, too deep for anchoring. Tom gets the cave to echo with a shout and we slip past looking for just for the right place.

One of many spectacular caves along the Greeck coast
One of many spectacular caves along the Greeck coast

We find the perfect place, a bay called Stafylos on the southwest corner of Skopelos. It has a long sandy beach and the water is pristine. Green and blue patches of water contrast against the dark of grasses that wave like wheat on the sea floor. We look for the right patch of sand and drop the hook. The Ultra anchor provides that wonderful little tug that let’s us know it is set. Several hotels dot the hillside on this side of the island. Stairs climb the hill to the left. We may have to ferret out wifi during our stay here. The pocket wifi only gets a 2G signal, not enough for emails. The guidebook says there is a taverna and a nude beach here. After lunch, we all go for a swim…my first of the season since it takes a while for the Aegean to warm. Water is fabulous. Had Tom’s fasoulia / green beans Syrian style for dinner and watch Woody Allen’s “Barcelona”, both very, very good!

June 17, 2014

The day is cloudy, the anchorage was rolly…all night long…and a big powerboat with their jet ski has moved into the bay. Stafylos means “grape”. I will not go for the obvious analogy of ‘sour grapes’ but it is time to move on.   Note: Sail and Power Boaters often look for two different experiences on the water. It reminds me of the feuds between cattle and sheep ranchers in the Wild West. Both love their environment but use it in very different and often competing ways.

We head to Skopelos. Entering the harbor, we are competing with the “Flying Cat” again and the Hellenic Seaways for maneuvering room. It is stern to, along the town quay on the eastern side of the harbor, the new harbor. The new and old harbor form one continuous quay and it is hard to know where one begins and the other ends. The traditional white stucco buildings cover the town’s entire hillside. There are at least three walking streets with small shops, bakeries, and tavernas that wander uphill.   Skopelos is famous for its plums and almonds. We are heading to a Trip Advisor recommended restaurant “Perivoli” that features dishes with both. Fabulous meal! One of the best we have had. Perivoli Restaurant Tel. 24240 23758. Try the roast pork with plums or the beef stuffed with apricots. Marvelous! We begin our waddle back to the boat. Tom and Marcelo stop at a taverna to watch the Brazil and Mexico game. (Before going back to the game, Marcelo graciously walks me back to the boat so I do not have to make the flying leap to the passerelle. We often raise this gangplank and pull it back to keep it from bouncing on the dock.) Brazil “0” and Mexico “0”.

Last Day in Limnos and Change of Plans

June 7, 2014
This is our last day in Limnos for a while. We are heading south, we think. Marcelo and Tom play tennis at 8am while I am fast asleep. The courts are at the Lemnos Village Resort Hotel near Platte Beach. It is a long way there, 20 minutes, and a long way back. They tell me that they get lost on the way home…so many unmarked turns, so many names, but always a great panorama. Once again, I skip the local gym. It is on the fourth floor near the town square. The fourth floor!!! I think about checking in out…briefly. Normally, I am a gym rat but I have a theory that the boat is like a giant “bosu” ball…I am constantly balancing and losing tons of weight! If only I didn’t like FRIED ZUCCHINI, gin and tonics and an occasional crème brulee.

I sit down and begin writing for a client. Time passes without my noticing. The morning is gone. The effort involved keeps the process from being heaven but for me it is a limbo that renews. It is 1pm and the jocks return.

The goal is the Limnos castle, a 13th Century gem on the headlands between the town and the beach. It is quite a large site. Tom, Marcelo and I walk up the walking street and follow signs to the castle road. There are quite a few posted descriptions about the site as we amble our way upwards. (Note to self: Do not wear flip flops when climbing castle roads.) The view is spectacular from the upper walls, as well as the lower regions of the castle, where wild deer roam and the remaining walls frame a view of the Aegean. For those of us who have seen many castles…every island seems to have one…this castle is worth the trip. Boat friends tell us to bring a bottle of wine and stay for sunset. I suspect this is a great idea but this traveler would either navigate her way much more quickly than is prudent or not at all “under the influence”.

View of Greek Church through window of Myrina Castle
View of Greek Church through window of Myrina Castle
View of Limnos from Myrina CastleMarcelo on the Promentory of the Myrina Castle

Joy of joys! We are at the summit of the castle, when my phone rings. Our children Serene, living in London these past 6 years, and our son Jake, a resident of San Francisco, are calling. Crystal clear reception helps them fill in the details of Serene’s visit to see Jake in that foggy city. It is the icing on a chocolate cake kind of day.

Successfully slipping and sliding on loose rock and bad shoes (really not a very difficult walk for most people of moderate ability), Tom, Marcelo and I wind our way through a labyrinth of streets and small alleys to go back to Cosmos “OYZEPi “KO6UOS” Tel: 6974 116644, 22540 22050 for dinner. Whoever is cooking, probably ‘Mama’, is definitely the best cook in her family. It was another great meal.

June 8, 2014
Being part bat, I never get up early, except under duress. This morning my 6am soldiers are already underway when I resurrect myself at 9am. “Guess what,” Marcelo says as I stumble into the galley. “We aren’t going back to Lesvos as planned.”

We are headed to the Northern Sporades, a group of islands that include Alonnisos, Skiathes, Skopelos and others that come highly recommended in “The Lonely Planet”, my favorite guidebook. (“Sporades” translates as “scattered”.)

“Sounds fine with me,” I say. I hang over “Lonely Planet” and sip my coffee and get excited with each page I turn.

It is a light wind about 6 knots and a ‘reach’. Marcelo says, “Perfect day for a spinnaker.” Tom and I look at each other. We haven’t had the spinnaker up in years. It is a lot of work and the conditions need to be just right.

Marcelo pulls out the asymmetrical spinnaker from the forepeak and we start setting up. I used to be a good first mate but now I think I am just a “.5” mate, so I need a lot of direction even though I know most of the terms. Unpacking, untwisting, hooking up and launching the spinnaker is exciting. After sorting out a last twist in the sail, she snaps open and Pakilar has a ‘bone in her teeth’ as we sail towards the Northern Sporades. What a thrill! We carry the spinnaker for almost 4 hours and reach up to 9.2 knots…flying for Pakilar. This is the best sailing in years. Bravo, Marcelo for suggesting it!IMG_3128

The wind is steadily increasing in the afternoon. It is time to bring the spinnaker in before it gets any worse. I go forward to help release lines and close jammers and bag the sale as it comes in. Tom tells me that he is proud that I can “dance on the foredeck”. It is a strange thing. I am rarely totally comfortable in the water but I love being on it…even bouncing on bigger and bigger waves as the wind picks up speed.

We end up putting a reef in the main and sail on to the island of North Pelagos, and anchor in Panayia Bay for the night. There are about 5 or 6 other boats anchored there. We spend a quiet night retelling the day’s events. All “happy” but tired, Marcelo turns on the icemaker and I begin to make my Moroccan Vegetable Stew, soon to be renamed “Two Gin and Tonic Stew”. It has never come out better!

June 9, 2014
The plan is to go where the wind takes us and pick one of the many islands that suit our fancy along the way. The wind is light today and we are powering. The phone rings and we hear very, very sad news. The next five days we will be on a variety of ferries, buses and planes to go to a funeral of a wonderful woman, whom we feel blessed to have known. We sail into Alonnisos, planning to catch one of the many ferries there. We are past the breakwater when the Flying Cat Ferry shows up. Suddenly the harbor is much smaller than it was ten minutes ago and we are uncertain about the depth at the quay. Anchoring might be possible but presents difficulties for Marcelo once we have left the boat. As we scan the dock and mill in and out and away from the Flying Cat, we see John and Eva’s boat “Destiny”. She is tied along the quay. We call them on their cell phone. They answer! John recommends that we call the Harbor Police on Channel 12 to verify the depth. ‘Of course!’ we think. The Harbor Police is very helpful and tells us that we have the more than 4 meters of clearance that Pakilar needs to dock. It is mid afternoon when we arrive. Tom scrambles ashore to check timetables and discovers that the last ferry is sold out. We will begin our travels in the morning.

We are booking hotels and making plane reservations when John, Eva and friends George and Fran Skrzypek (who met John and Eva a couple of years ago and now often travel together) stop at the boat. George invites us all to their boat “Zarafet” for a drink before dinner. English boaters Linda and Henry, from Exeter, England, join the group and we all share an excellent meal at “Archipelago” on the harbor front. Tel: 24240 65031.

I will not belabor the details of our sojourn but have some suggestions for the Greek Travel board when they are asking themselves how to attract tourists.

Ferry (and Bus) Schedules
Need to be in multiple languages and updated regularly (It is OK to put “This schedule is valid between the following dates” and not wait until June 1 to reissue the June through August Schedule.)
Improve the Ferry Schedule Websites- confusing to read and often not reliable.

Put a real restaurant inside the gate area of the Athens airport and not “just” outside the security checkpoint. Once you have gone through security, no one wants to go back through.

Greek People
Don’t change a thing! Greek people are wonderful, warm and helpful.

Plan B & C and Northeastern Aegean Vampires- June 4, 5, and 6, 2014

June 4, 2014
A week ago, the goal was to head to Thessaloniki with a high priority stop at Mt. Athos with its monasteries, on one of the three fingers of the Halkidiki, Peninsula. The closer we get to our goal, the less important it seems. I feel an allegory coming on…but I will resist the impulse.

Thessaloniki is a city and cities can be beautiful but some are better seen by car and not by boat. Plan B is a trip to the Dardanelles. What a history! Still, we remember similar straits like those of Bonifacio between Corsica and Sardinia and how the strong current pushed us backwards many miles as we powered into the wind. We read about tanker traffic in the Dardanelles and begin to ponder the wisdom of venturing into a heavily trafficked commercial lane in less than favorable winds. Tom and Marcelo decide that we will make headway back towards lovely Porto Koufo and begin our passage south.

The ten kilometers back to Koufo with an overcast sky are uneventful. We arrive early and decide to continue our film education with a Greek Film entitled “Rambetico”. Rambetico is a type of Greek ‘blues’ singing. The music is nationalistic and extremely dark. The film’s principal character, Marika, is a famous Rambetico singer who experienced pre-war Greece and political revolution, World War II, and the Greek civil war…enough to depress anyone. The film was good but way, way too long.

“Marcelo,” I said. “The film is interesting but I got the message. I am glad that I know about Rambetico music, but is it almost over? The editor is doing a poor job.”

“Rita,” he says. “It is an art film!”

I guess we must all suffer for art.

Tom and I, me mostly, needed to get some exercise on shore. Marcelo dropped us off with the dinghy portside in Koufo. There is a memorial to a Chinook helicopter accident that happened off the coast here and a real Chinook helicopter is actually part of the permanent exhibit. When speaking to a local ashore, we asked if members of the crew were Greeks. “No,” she said. “It just happened off our coast and we thought it was important to honor their memory.” Impressive!

Dinner also ashore tonight at OPSARAS Restaurant. Tel: 23750 51254 email: O_psaras22Porto.Koufo@hotmail.gr It was good and the staff was very pleasant.

June 5, 2014
Heading back to Limnos and the Myrina Harbor. It is already a favorite of ours. This 50 mile trip takes about 8 hours.
je cherche un homme africain pour mariage Vampires in the Northeastern Aegean
It happened when all things happen…as you are entering the harbor and are about to tie up. Blood begins running down Tom’s left leg. At first, I thought it was a scratch or maybe he was peeing over the transom and got nicked, as payment for this shortcut, by an errant piece of metal. Tom is not faint and the blood is bright red, not dark. We quickly tie up and Marcelo takes over. Tom and I disappear below. Tom lifts his pant leg and I see that his shorts and underwear are soaked in blood. This looks serious! Still he is chatting and otherwise unfazed. Lots of paper towels and wet clothes later, we see Tom has a bite…wait for this…on his scrotum. It is pretty big…the bite, not his scrotum. The bite continues to bleed even with considerable pressure…his, not mine. I throw his shorts and underwear in the sink and put water on them while he lays down and puts even more pressure on the site. Our sink soon looks like a scene from “Dexter”, bright red with blood. Luckily, Tom’s strategy works and the bleeding stops. We start to theorize about the type and size of creature that “..boldly went were no man has gone before!” (Other than Tom) Was it a giant mosquito, horsefly, or…? We will never know but its aim was calculated and its bounty was rich. Tom’s greatest concern was washing the blood off the teak decks so that it wouldn’t stain.

Upon our arrival, we pull in next to “Destiny” and our friends Eva and John. John is there to help us tie up. Eva is off playing dominoes with Fran and George, our Australian friends, on their catamaran. We all meet up for dinner and head to Romeo’s Restaurant Tel: 22540 22622, 25151 on the bay just north of the town harbor. Another spectacular sunset! Eva has a good eye and she recommends the timing and location for a photo that will probably become a screensaver in the years ahead.

View from our restaurant in the harbor north of the town harbor in Limnos
View from our restaurant in the harbor north of the town harbor in Limnos

Eva, John, Fran, and George are all heading off tomorrow on their journey towards the Peloponnesian Greek chain via many small anchorages. This is a safer way to travel for two boats, each with just a husband and wife crew. Good sailors but back up is always good.

Confession: I am addicted to fried zucchini! Support groups are held at Williams and Sonoma. Look for signs “Sale on Breyville Deep Fryers.”

June 6, 2014
Rented a car to do the follow-up tour / places we missed on our first visit to Limnos. The goal was visiting the Limnos Desert, Poliochni (site of the first organized European settlement and first prehistoric settlement in the Aegean), and the Allied Cemetery in Moudros, and walking up to see the interior of the Castle guarding the harbor. We never found the desert, the entrance to the site at Poliochni was closed (Closed at 3pm but looked pretty low key anyway.), and it got too late to actually go inside the castle. Still, we did find the cemetery when we mistakenly down the wrong road to Poliochni. It was the unplanned places that made this day.

Note: Greek towns can be called several different things and are spelled several different ways. Side streets can be main thoroughfares and dirt roads off of main roads can be the turn you didn’t see and just missed.

Porto Carras – Sinthonia Peninsula – June 2 – 3, 2014

look at here June 2, 2014
The wind direction has changed at our anchorage in Porto Koufo and our anchor is dragging. Bad weather is in the forecast for Tuesday, so it is decision time. We either leave now or reset the anchor and wait until Wednesday. Tom, Marcelo and I haul aboard the dinghy and engine and then it is anchors away. The plan is to go to Porto Carras about 10 nautical miles from here. It will move us farther up the coast while the wind is favorable and will be a new place for us.

The sea is relatively calm today. (No one ever mentions this. It is a sure way to have the weather change in a matter of minutes.) Midway to Porto Carras, there is a bit more wave action but still pretty good. We see this major, I do mean major, hotel on the coast and right next to it is beakwater and the entrance to Porto Carras. The hotel has 2,500 rooms and is the largest hotel in Europe (per the marina). John Carras, a Greek shipping magnate, developed it. It has a golf course, tennis courts, horseback riding, a spa, gym, and the ferry runs to and from Nea Marmaras (New Marmara, Turkish Greeks resettled here in the Great Exchange between Turkey and Greece in the 1920s) every hour. The entrance at the breakwater is very narrow. We sail within 200 ft. of the hotel’s windows and tie up at the dock with a finger pier.

My official pronouncement is “I don’t like this place.” Of course, I haven’t even stepped off the boat. Winning me back will be a challenge. Still, Tom says that we should head up and check out the hotel (a brick bunker of a place that reminds us of Dubrovnik). It is a tower of smaller and smaller terraces in concrete that rise up 6+ floors. There are at least two such complexes. We check in that the Porto offices and pay our two-night fee. The gentleman in the office is very nice. “Where is home for you?” “Boston?” I have been to Baltimore…” etc., etc. “Have a nice visit here.” Ok. One check in the positive column on my checklist. Next we visit the hotel concierge. Young woman, Russian, on her very first day of work, gives me a tour of the hotel, spa and gym. Ok. Two points in the plus column. Next stop, the café restaurant, where Tom and I have the most spectacular waffle with homemade ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce. Ok. Three points in the plus column. Exiting the restaurant we see young local children playing on the hotel owned soccer field. Ok, if I have to, put another point in the plus column with a local hotel with positive input into the local community. Checking out the showers for the boaters now…just an OK with a 6 out of 10 rating. Tom and Marcelo head out to play tennis. “Best courts ever,” Tom says. Add a point.

Tonight, Tom and Marcelo and I head back to the café for dinner. Each of us had a fabulous meal! Great fish for me, seafood pasta for Marcelo and chicken for Tom! How many points is that now? It is midnight and the staff was as welcoming as if we were leaving at 9pm. God Bless and I have stopped counting!

site de rencontre personne timide June 3, 2014
It is 10 pm and I can hear the rain on the deck of the boat, my ceiling…the overhead. It is such a comfort to be “down below” and in my bunk. My shelf, a rail running along the length of my bed, is littered with books that I am reading (usually two or three different ones to match my mood), a water bottle, 500 count bottle of aspirin, a copy of the Economist that I picked up in London before heading to Istanbul, and my IPAD and headphones to watch Casablanca or African Queen a few thousand more times. Note: I got a lot of grief after I convinced Tom and Marcelo to watch African Queen. “What! This old maid woman missionary is at the helm going down the rapids. This is fantasy!!! A woman’s feel good movie!” they rant.

Yes, I know and I love it! Thank you, Katherine. Thank you, Humphrey.

When I write, I feel connected. Although, I am not so sure that anyone is reading this since I have kept this circle small. Still, the joy in sitting here and writing is the like the chocolate inside a fondant. It is not easily seen but delightfully and dependably present.

Pakilar is still in Porto Carras. Tom and I decide to head to Nea Marmaris by ferry, a short few mile trip from the dock at the hotel. Of course, we miss the ferry and decide not to wait an hour for the next one but have the hotel call a cab. Our cabbie scolds us for using the same door to get in, causing me to scoot across the car’s cushions to let Tom in. “It is not good for the car!” he says. “I have four doors. Use them.” Whoa! I think someone needs not to be in the taxi business. At least the ride is short and I only have to elbow Tom in the side twice to keep him from lambasting the driver on proper client etiquette.

The weather is cloudy in Nea Marmaris, a town created when a large contingent of Greeks living in Turkey were deported in “The Great Exchanged” in the 1920s. The town has a lot going for it…a lovely harbor front, winding streets, a pretty church on the quay. Still, those ever present ‘dollar store’ style shops with T-shirts, flip flops, cheap toys, and tea towels with the word “GREECE” pre-eminently displayed make it look cluttered and a bit dirty. We hear lots of Russian spoken and several other Slavic languages. Tom is running out of one of his medications so we look for the flashing green cross, denoting a pharmacy (Flashing red cross denotes a doctor’s office) and meet Marie, the owner/pharmacist. She has to order the medication. It will be delivered this evening and she offers to deliver it to our boat in Porto Carras. Quite kind!

Tom and I amble up the street and buy a couple of carved olive wood serving pieces for the boat. Olivewood is extremely dense, so giving the bowl a depth and preserving the grain is difficult. We now proudly sport a large nicely carved fruit bowl on Pakilar. Always hungry, we stop for lunch at the only moderately busy place on the harbor. It serves hamburgers and souvlaki. It looks quite tacky but the waiters were very good and the food was very tasty. The neighboring table was a group of a few Russians speaking German as their only other language. Having studied German at the Goethe Institute near Munich a few thousand years ago, I was able to translate a bit. Show and tell is still the most effective. Two of the women picked my meal.

After lunch, we caught the ferry for a pleasant ride back to Porto Carras and the boat. Watched an excellent film called A Touch of Spice, directed by Tassos Boulmetis. It is the story of a family in the second wave of forced deportation of Greeks from Istanbul, Turkey in the 1950s and 60s. They were given the option to stay in Turkey if they agreed to become a Muslim. Wonderful cinematography. The Turks considered these people to be Greeks and the Greeks labeled them Turkish.

Our pharmacist Maria stops by to bring Tom’s medicine. She is with her husband and son, around 7 years old. We try to coax them all aboard for a drink / to see the boat but their son is too shy to feel comfortable. I wish we could have gotten to know them a little better.

Pasta and artichokes for dinner tonight! My trainer back home would not be happy.

Mt. Athos – Akti Peninsula May 31, 2014

May 31, 2014
Today is Tom and my 39th wedding anniversary. As I type these words, I feel almost surreal. How old am I? Shocking. Note: Tom’s gift to me on our first year anniversary was a drifter-reacher sail. When I told Marcelo this story today, he said “But I am sure you could have traded it for something else…a spinnaker!!!”

I am ensconced in my bed when I hear Tom and Marcelo’s footsteps on deck this morning at 5:30 am starting the engine and releasing lines. I roll over in my bunk and go back to sleep. I hear the sails being set a short time later, something that usually prompts me to get up and be on deck. We are on starboard tack so I roll against the bulkhead and, once again, go back to sleep. The next time I am awake, we are on port tack so to avoid being rolled out of my bunk I switch to Tom’s bunk and try to sleep until I am almost bounced out of bed. Constantly shifting winds, confused seas with short waves from all directions that remind me of Med sailing, awaken me fully and I debate whether it is worth it to find steady ground to work myself into clothes and go on deck.

We are falling off the backside of these short waves and there is a cool wind blowing, first from the south and then the west and then from the southeast. We are wondering if we will actually make our initial destination and start to look for a plan B.

Rita and Tom aboard and underway.
Rita and Tom aboard and underway.
Then we are interrupted with the arrival of a group of dolphins that start to play with our boat…jumping in unison alongside and taking turns at the bow enjoying the Jacuzzi effect of our bow wave. They seem even more entranced by the noise we generate when we go “BLAM” as we fall off a wave. Our mammal friends’ 30+ minute visit are a nice omen.

As we get closer to Mt. Athos, the first of three fingers of a peninsula near Thessaloniki, the seas calm. Mt. Athos is the home of 20 monasteries that date back from the 10th, 11th, and 13th century. Only men who are in good standing with their church, preferably Greek Orthodox, are allowed to visit this peninsula. In 1060, they had a rule that only Greek Orthodox men, with beards, and male animals could visit the island. They later got rid of the beard and the male animal rule. I think they liked fresh eggs for breakfast. Their story is that they are dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who had visited the peninsula, and that she should be the only woman to set foot on the island. The monasteries are beautiful to see from the water but most are in the process of being repaired. Damage from fire was a big issue for many of them. We saw half a dozen people in total along the entire coast. These beautiful but difficult to access sites are quite fun to see. Good marketing with the “no women” rule. It makes for an interesting topic of conversation. Everyone is desperate to access the inaccessible. You always want what you can’t have!Mt. Athos MonasteryIMG_2822

Built into the hillside this monastery is one of 20 on the island
Built into the hillside this monastery is one of 20 on the island
Beautiful Mt. Athos
Beautiful Mt. Athos

We head for the neighboring peninsula to anchor for the night. Calm seas and a 20+ knot wind make for a great hour sail on a beam reach to the bay of Sikias. Nice beach in front of us with a tavern and lots of sun beds. Marcelo heads in for a swim with a short wetsuit since the water is a bit cold. The water is pristine. Clear and clean down to the 5-meter bottom. If it were warmer, even I would go in. Our Ultra anchor is set beautifully and Tom and I play backgammon. The “doubles” king wins again (Rolled three, count them, three doubles in the last four rolls of the game…not that I was upset about losing or anything) but I did give him a run for his money.

When Marcelo returns from his swim, we officially celebrate Tom and my anniversary with a bottle of Prosecco. Marcelo made a delicious farfalle pasta with salmon. Tom and I reached 2 or our 4 children (left voice messages for the other two) by phone to make it as close to perfect a day as any can be! Calling Home from the Boat

Porto Koufo – Sinthonia Peninsula

June 1, 2014
Left Sikias to tool around the peninsula’s coast, heading southwest to a well protected harbor called Koufo. It is a balmy day with a light wind. We start to power. I go down below to work on a project I am doing for a school back home…a little tele-commuting. I wonder why suddenly the boat is slamming off of waves. Marcelo comes down below to secure the boat. He says, “The wind is 36 knots.”

At dinner tonight, we rehash the story.

Tom said,
Off in the distance there was a line. At first, I thought it was the outer marker of a fish farm. Then suddenly we discovered it was a wind line. We went from 5 knots to 36 knots in a matter of seconds. The wind persists. It becomes quite a ride. Suddenly, we hit one of two consecutive two-meter waves. The boat headed up and then the bow fell off the backside and into the wave. Before Pakilar had a chance to recover, a second identical wave hit. Marcelo says, ‘We need to think about returning to Sikias.’ We were a three-quarters of a mile from the Koufo harbor and I said ‘Let’s try to hang in a little longer.’ We pulled closer to shore and the wind direction and velocity was better.

Of course, I was down below irritated that the salon table wasn’t calm enough for me to type. I was clueless. There is a reason for the cliché “Ignorance is bliss.” (Caveat: Tomorrow or the next day, when my husband reads this he will say, “That is not what happened at all.” Still, this is my blog and I get to tell the story.

We lived and ate an excellent meal at “Fish Taverna Tzitzikas” in Porto Koufo, Sithonia-Chalkidiki – Greece. Tel: 0030 2375 051 270. I have been able to make one more, always honest, recommendation for a locally owned and operated business…a life goal!