We departed Methoni on the morning of Monday 9th July our course set east to round Cape Tainaron the most southerly part of the Greek mainland and nearly the most southerly part of Europe, being beaten only by Tarifa in Spain which is 16 miles further south. We had a pleasant motor sail for the first part, then in the afternoon the wind increased and allowed us to turn off the motor which always brings an air of tranquillity to the boat.
We rounded Cape Tainaron about four in the afternoon and turned north making for the small village of Kayio with the wind increasing from the northwest. The village of Kayio lies in a deep bay with its own natural harbour, we dropped anchor about 50yards from the beach letting out all our chain and settled in for the night with the wind increasing to near gale force and viscous squalls driving down off the mountains.
The Anchorage Kayoi The waterfront and Beach at Kayoi
Next day the wind was still blowing hard from the northwest but as we liked our surroundings we decided to stop for a couple of days and explore the area. We had noticed a small chapel on the headland at the entrance to the bay, so we set off in search of that.
On reaching the chapel the sea views were magnificent, giving a panoramic view to the west and east, where we had come from and where we were heading to next. Inside the small chapel was also quite a surprise as you can see from the photograph.
Inside of the Chapel
Alba Voyager had remained pretty well trouble free since we left Scotland two years previously, little did we know that was about to change, dramatically!
We left Kayio heading east for Cape Maleas, the last Cape before we headed north into the Aegean Sea. The pilot book had warned of strong winds and heavy shipping between the Cape and the island of Kithera. And so it was, but nothing we hadn't handled before. Alba Voyager seemed to be enjoying it with the wind about 60 deg off the bow and 8 to9 knots on the clock. Normally when the boat is sailing this fast we don't trust her to the autohelm but hand steer. When it came my turn on the helm I noticed that the lea shrouds (wires which hold the mast up) were all very slack and they shouldn't be. I asked Anne to quickly take the helm back so I could investigate the problem. It was serious; the cap shroud on the lea side was so slack it had come out of the spreader. Although at this point I didn't know why, the obvious thing was to get all sail off the main mast fast. If we had tacked we would have lost the mast. In the panic to get the Genoa rolled away the leach line caught on the bare spreader and we ripped it out of the sail from top to bottom. The mainsail we managed down without damage. Engine started, we altered course for Elafonisos Bay which is a large open bay about seven miles from our present position and one which would give us shelter in the prevailing wind so we could take stock of the damage. The problem as it turned out was, the teak beam supporting the mast had rotted through. The rot being caused by a leak from the shower allowing water to soak into the beam. The mast had dropped into the boat by about 50mm (2" to those of you who can still remember gas lighting). Although serious we took up the slack in the bottle screws which then held the mast steady but the downside was we would be unable to set any sail for fear that the beam giving way completely. We have a long way to go and this would leave us only the mizzen and the engine, so my thoughts turned to how we could execute some sort of temporary repair. The weather held us in the bay for 5 days while the Meltemi blew itself out. On day six we decided to get round Cape Maleas and up north to Monemvasia the first port where we might find suitable materials to make a temporary repair. The wind was still blowing F5-6 but with the mizzen set this would give us some drive to assist the engine. We had a hard sail until round the Cape and then by magic the wind died away to nothing and we motored the remaining 15 miles to Monemvasia. Monemvasia although disappointing from the point of view we couldn't get what we needed to carry out temporary repairs on the mast turned out to be a gem. We got a long-side berth in the harbour and on the Saturday after our arrival a mock battle was re-enacted to celebrated one of the major sea battles in the War of Independence against the Turks. The local heroine was Boubalina who commanded the Greek fleet and destroyed a large part of the Turkish fleet at Navplion with fire ships.
Battle at Sea Battle in the Harbour
Battle at Night Battle Celebrations
We thought it only fair that we should join in with our own celebrations and here joined forces with the Dutch boat rafted on our outside. There were a few sore heads in the morning left over from the battle!
The weather and in particular the wind was reported light (F3-4) and fair for the next couple of days, so we decided to head for Navplion 60 miles north at the head of Argolikos Bay, stopping overnight at Kiparissi on route. Navplion is Greece's second largest city and we were sure we would get what we wanted for our temporary mast repair here. Also we would stock up from the large supermarkets in town before heading into the islands. We were looking for some sort of jack to fit between the keel and the underside of the beam which supported the mast and in this we were lucky finding a small hydraulic jack, the type to jack up your car when changing a wheel.
After restocking the boat and taking on gallons of bottled water (due to the heat we were getting through about four litres a day) we set off for Khaidhari where we had arranged to meet up with John and Vanessa of Meander a Bruce Roberts 40, one of the boats we had met whilst wintering in Sibari. Here we fitted the jack and were pleased with the result thinking now we would be able to set a bit of sail, however our joy was short lived as the jack only stayed up for about 4 hours before loosing pressure. Oh! Well back to the drawing board and plan 'B'.
Meander at Anchor
It was Thursday 26th July when we departed Khaidhari, this was our last contact with mainland Greece from now on it would be all islands until we reached Marmaris in mainland Turkey. Because of the mast problem we had decided to curtail our cruise through the Aegean Islands and were heading in a near straight line to Marmaris where we would have the mast removed and proper repairs made. But Lady Luck wasn't finished with us yet, they do say bad luck goes in threes. We were headed for Limin on Isle Idhras and on arrival found the harbour like the M25 on a Friday night.
And to compound things we fouled our anchor on a very large and heavy ground chain in the harbour while attempting to moor. This caused more confusion as we were having trouble getting free and thought we would have to put a diver down. After a two hour struggle and help from another boat we managed to free the anchor and get berthed. We spent the night in the harbour and hated ever minute, this is one place well worth missing in our opinion, Anne never even got off the boat.
Chaos in Limin Harbour
Come morning and as soon as we could get free from the other boats blocking us in we were off! Next stop the port of Merikha on Isle Kithnos about 50 miles east of Idhras. About halfway there gremlin three decided to put in an appearance, the oil pressure in the engine started dropping, help! No sails (except mizzen) and now no engine, things were going from bad to worse. It's funny how the brain starts thinking when faced with a serious problem, like a game of chess it starts thinking of all the known permutations of what is causing the problem. Well having gone through this process we started with the simplest solution, top up the oil in the engine. Yes, this gave a marked improvement. But about an hour later the oil pressure was nearly back to square one. Second thought, must be something wrong with the oil, so stop the engine and carry out a complete oil change. This is no fun at the best of times but at sea in a seaway it's ten times worse. Anyway when the engine was restarted we were greatly relieved to find that all was well the oil pressure was back to where it should be. That lasted for about three hours when it became obvious that the oil pressure was dropping again, all be it very slowly. Stop the engine and check the oil level, well surprise, the level is now higher than when I refilled the engine after the oil change. We're getting close now, something's getting into the oil, it's not water, must be diesel, but from where? On close examination of the engine the most likely culprit is the fuel lift pump. We were close to Merikha now, so I decided to leave things as they were until after we arrived as we were both feeling the strain. When we arrived the harbour was full so we motored to an adjacent bay and anchored there. Next morning and after a good sleep we tackled the problem of the lift pump. As we had no spare or repair kit I rigged a bypass. Our fuel tanks are above engine level and I reckoned the fuel would run by gravity to the injection pump. On starting the engine this time the oil pressure didn't drop any further. Now we know where the problem lies. We changed the oil in the engine again to remove the oil contaminated with diesel and thanked our lucky stars that it wasn't more serious. Now back to concentrating on the mast problem.
To give the engine a proper test we decided to move a short distance up the coast to Sandbar Bay which we were told was an idyllic spot. It was indeed beautiful and we spent a couple of days here chilling out as they say.
Anchorage at Sandbar Bay
We sailed from Sandbar Bay heading for Livadhi on the island of Serifos 25 miles to the southeast, our fingers were crossed that 'Lady Luck' had played her three cards and would now move onto some other poor unsuspecting yacht leaving us to reach Marmaris without any further mishaps. We arrived at 4 o'clock having motor sailed all the way and anchored in the bay just off the town. From the anchorage we had a great view of the Chora built high up in the hills .
This type of village is not uncommon in Greece and I believe they were built high in the mountains because, one, it is cooler in summer catching any breeze and, two, you could see the next invasion coming and had time to flee or at least roll stones down the hill at them as they climbed up to get you.
Looking up to the Chora (village) from the Anchorage
The pilot book said it was well worth making a visit to the Chora for its magnificent views and the small chapel which stood on the top of the hill. I said to Anne "we should walk up and have a look", she said "we'll take the bus"! We took the bus.
View of the Harbour from the top The Chora on the top
Chapel at the very top
Cruising in Greece is similar to cruising on the west coast of Scotland in the respect that you can usually see the next island before you set off which makes navigation a doddle.
Our next port of call was Vathi on the island of Sifnos, a meer 16 miles away. Vathi is a small village in a near landlocked bay with a quite anchorage and a beautiful sandy beach, just the sort of place we enjoy most.
We spent two days here doing-------well, nothing before setting off for the island of Paros a whole 30 miles away.
The entrance viewed from the anchorage
On arriving at Paros's main port, Paroikia we found the marina full and had to anchor in the bay. While looking for a suitable place to drop the hook we heard cries of "Alba Voyager", "Alba Voyager" on looking across we were over the moon to see Dream with Geoff and Pammie on board, the last time we met up was a year ago in Denia, Spain (Dream had left Scotland at the same time as us and our paths had first crossed in Dublin). Paroikia had another surprise for us, we were able to buy all the bits I needed to make a good temporary repair to the mast.
But with a lot of catching up to do with Dream that would have to wait to our next port of call where there was a good marina to do the work in. Dream was also heading to Naxos so we had a pleasant sail in company arriving to find again, the marina full, so it was into the anchorage which thankfully was very sheltered.
Looking down into the Anchorage at Naxos
We would spend a few days here in company with Dream and their friends Wayne and Angie in Hitrapia their Warrior 35.
I excused myself from the social scene and got on with our mast repair, which thankfully went smoothly and I had it finished in a day. With the jack in place I reckoned we would be able to set a modest amount of sail on the main mast.
My home made jack supporting the mast
We spent a wonderful six days in Naxos in each other's company. In addition to taking in the local archaeological sites we set about finding the cheapest beer and the best Gyros (Greek fast food, delicious) in the town. Not an easy task, but one we threw ourselves into!
Ancient Temple Built 530 BC Anne Viewing the Ruins
All good things come to an end and so it was on Saturday 18th August, we set sail for the island of Amorgas leaving Dream in the anchorage to wait for more favourable winds to take them northeast to Turkey.
We had a fast sail setting the genoa and mizzen to a small bay at the south end of the island where we dropped our anchor and settled in for the night. It was encouraging to know that our temporary mast repair was man enough for the job.
Alba Voyager Under Reduced Sail
Next morning the wind was blowing hard from the northeast so we decided to stay put and just have a day at anchor. The bay we were in was very quiet with no habitation in sight and offered good shelter from the wind, so we just relaxed after our hectic week in Naxos. In the morning we were greeted with a dead calm, so on with the engine and we motored all the way to the island of Astipalia and the village of Skala on its eastern side.
Alba Voyager in the Harbour at Skala
Skala has a small inner harbour which is in the process of having a new mole built to protect it from the east (you can see it in the photograph just beyond Alba Voyager) and here we anchored virtually in the centre of town.
Skala is a pleasant village with some lovely walks and we lingered here for four days taking in a birthday dinner for the skipper. The skipper was most appreciative and in a moment of generosity next day took the crew out for morning coffee.
Anne enjoying a Drink while overlooking the Harbour
Friday 24th August we set sail for Tilos (pronounced Teelos) 52 miles to our east and had a great sail with the Speedo registering over 8 knots for part of the way and this under our reduced rig. Livadhia the main town on Tilos has a mini marina come harbour which offers both water (a commodity you can't get on all the islands) and electricity and we were lucky to get a-long-side berth here. We had friends flying into Rhodes in a few days time who, we were supposed to meet there. However we found we could not get a berth in Mandraki marina the only marina in Rhodes and to solve the problem we got Christine and Margie to catch the ferry from Rhodes to Tilos, about a one and half hour journey. In the few days we had been here we had mapped out a number of interesting sites worth visiting. This interspersed with a spot of sunbathing and other more energetic activities should fill their week.
The Monastery on Tilos
One of the best ways to get around is on a scooter (especially when you're going to the other end of the island and you miss the bus, literally).
Get on Your Bike
About 3 miles outside Livadhia and up in the hills there is a deserted village (deserted after the Second World War), what makes this place special is they have just reopened the pub. It opens at midnight till about six in the morning, they lay on a free minibus to get you there and back and to create a spooky atmosphere many of the houses have been wired up with lights which can be switched on and off in time with the music. For those who fancy a bit of Greek dancing, Zorbo is on hand to lead you off.
The Deserted Village Complete With Pub
The weather is still sunny and very hot during the day, we found the best time was early morning or the evening after sunset when the temperature drops back to the seventies. This is the time to eat and although Livadhia has a population of only 500 inhabitants it boasts 15 restaurants. We tried a few and could thoroughly recommend them all, a lovely way to spend the evening and end the day.
Our friends took the morning ferry to Rhodes for their flight back to the U.K. later in the afternoon and the next day we sailed for Rhodes. We needed to stock up on a few things, mainly wine and diesel, both of which are a lot more expensive in Turkey. Mandraki marina was full as we half expected, but we managed to get tied up in a disused harbour about a mile further along the coast. We spent only a couple of days here as the surroundings weren't very nice. Getting the provisions we needed and booking out of the E.U. with the port police. Next stop would be Marmaris in Turkey our first non E.U. country since leaving our home port nearly three years ago.
We are booked into Yacht Marine Marina for the winter, so we sailed straight there to complete all the booking in formalities. We are allowed a 90 day visitors visa and the boat gets 5 years before tax is due to be paid. As we will be heading back to the U.K. and Greece respectively before these periods expire, there is no problem. The main reason for choosing Marmaris as our winter base is our very good friend and ex next door neighbour Jimmy keeps his boat here and we had promised to sail in company before the end of the season something we used to do regularly back home in Scotland.
Due to our mast problem this wasn't possible but we all shipped aboard Tom Crean, Jimmy's Island Trader and set off with his brother Brendan for a few days of food, wine and song. Hopefully we will get to repeat this with Jimmy and his wife Rhona at the start of next season.
At Anchor in Jimmy's Island Trader 'Tom Crean'
We hope you have enjoyed following our cruise and reading our 2007 log. Winter here in Yacht Marine looks as if it's going to be a busy one with all sorts of events and trips organised from the marina throughout the winter for the 250 odd live-aboards.
Best Wishes from Tom and Anne