It was a great sailing season in the Eastern Mediterranean, but now it is over. Sabbatical III has been hauled and is safely stored ashore in the hardstand area of the Kas Marina, Turkey. We are back in the US already planning next years adventure, which has us heading west for a yet to be determined number of miles. The next haul of Sabbatical III will be in a different country, and maybe a different ocean.
In addition to the usual preparations that we make prior to a haul out, we had the time for a bit of travel. We had 2 days in Kasterllorizo (Megisti), Greece. This small island is certainly one of our favorite places, The weather was pleasantly cool so we were able to hike to the top of the cliffs overlooking the town and harbor without getting heat stroke.
While at the top, we were able to watch the twice-a-week Blue Star ferry from Rhodes enter the bay, turn around, and tie up. This is quite an achievement as the ferry is almost as wide as the bay.
We also rented a car in Kas for trip to Salikent Gorge and the ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Xanthos, a World Heritage Site.
Just before sunset on September 23 we left Limassol, Cyprus heading for Ashkelon, Israel. At 4 am on the morning of the 25th, about 10 miles offshore from the Israeli coast, we had a visit from the Israeli Navy. Having passed this initial inspection, plus an extensive radio interview, we continued into the Ashkelon Marina for a more thorough inspection. Soon after we were moved from the security dock to a regular marina berth (seemingly the last one in Israel), Laura’s mother Shirley, sister Diane, and Diane’s daughter Kalya greets us with hugs and kisses. Laura’s mother was visiting for a month from St. Paul, Minnesota. It was Friday, so they left mid-afternoon to return to Jerusalem for Shabbat while we stayed behind to put the boat in order and to move it into a better position in the berth.
The holiday of Sukkot began Sunday night, so we rented a car and drove to Jerusalem for the start of the week long holiday. The next Thursday, we hosted a Sukkot party on Sabbatical III for about 20 guests. Diane and her husband Jonathan gave us the raw material necessary to turn the cockpit area of Sabbatical III into a sukkah — a temporary hut topped with branches that serves as a symbolic wilderness shelter. Laura’s family got to sleep on the boat and came back to Ashkelon to play and swim again the next week. We spent a lot of time in Jerusalem (one hour and a half by car), and also toured around in Tel Aviv, Beersheva, and Ashdod.
We saw a weather window and took it, departing on October 21 and going straight through to Turkey just ahead of a weather system that brought strong thunderstorms to the eastern Med including flooding in Israel and Egypt (Alexandria in particular). We saw nearly constant lightening in the distance the last night, and some nice wind to sail with, and pulled into the anchorage at Kekova in the rain after a 53 hour sail. A sailing trip to Israel was a longstanding dream of mine, and the reality of it turned out to be fantastic.
We arrived in Cyprus on September 13 after a fast 29 hour sail from Kas, Turkey. We have been at the St. Raphael Marina which is about 14 kilometers east of the big city of Limassol. We rented a car for a few days and did some limited touring. There is a beach next to the marina where Laura swims and we watch the sunset. The Sailors Rest restaurant next to the marina turned out to be wonderful and we became friends with the staff.
This evening (September 23) we will leave for Ashkelon, Israel. We expect to arrive in Ashkelon early on Friday, September 25.
This is the last, and very delayed, installment of our photoblogs about our July/August trip to western Europe to escape the heat of southern Turkey. On August 24, we flew from Vienna to Bordeaux on Europe Airpost, a budget airline. We picked up a rental car at the airport, drove to a Boutique Orange to get a SIM for my iPad, and then 90 minutes to the east to the little village of Saint Quentin de Caplong in the wine area east of St. Emillion where we stayed in a cute B&B set in the middle of the vineyards. We arrived late and hungry at 10 pm at the Chambres d’Hôtes “Les Foucauds” and our hosts set out plates of pâté, bread, and crudités, and of course, a selection of local wines. The next night we were served a spectacular multi-course meal at an outdoor table overlooking the vineyards.
From Saint-Quentin-de-Caplong we drove to the country home (“La Bourg”) of Melinda and George of the yacht “Daedalus.” We met Melinda and George while cruising along the Australian coast on the way to Darwin in 2011. They were with us for the Sail Indonesia rally, and subsequently in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. Their boat is still in Malaysia. Their centuries old home in Fongalop (near Monpazier) is very charming and comfortable and we ate, drank, toured and had a wonderful time visiting with them.
From Fongalop, we drive to the chambre d’hôtes “Au Merlot” in Ste. Sabine-Born to await the arrival of our son Benjamin and his girlfriend Irene who were driving up from Hondarribia in the Basque County of Spain. We had a wonderful 36 hours with them … touring, talking, and eating.
Ben and Irene drove back to Spain and one day later we drove to Lompian (near Damazan) to stay with our friends Danny Rose and Jamie Fellner at “Maison du Canal,” a beautiful old house set right on the Canal du Midi that they had rented. We walked along the paved path along the canal, rented a canal boat for a cruise, and toured and dined in the towns of the Lot-et-Garonne department. It was wonderful to spend time with Danny and Jamie in such a beautiful place and was a fitting and memorable end to our European sojourn.
We took the train from Salzburg to Vienna on August 1 and took up residence in the lovely apartment of Peter, Alexandra, and Finn of “Risho Maru.” It was very hot almost the whole time we were in Vienna but we still loved it, as we did last year. It got so hot after some days — with a forecast of 100 degrees Fahrenheit– that we looked for some place to cool off. I followed the railway track south from Vienna on Google Maps and then searched on-line for a place in the Dolomite Mountains of the Alps easily accessible by train. Everything seemed to be booked but finally we found a room for 3 days with a family in a converted farm house in a small town just in the northeast corner of Italy just 5 miles from the Austrian border and 5 miles from the Slovenian border. They even agreed to pick us up from the train station.
There are only a few photos of Vienna below as we posted many last year. We were lucky enough to have our good friends from Rhode Island, Shelley Roth and her sons Spencer and Jeremy, visit for an afternoon.
By late July, it gets very hot in southern Turkey. So, like last year, we flew off to Austria (on July 24) to see our sailing friends from “Risho Maru” and then house sit their flat in Vienna while they are off sailing. This time we flew to Salzberg and drove in our rental car to the Salzkammergut, the lake region to the east of Salzberg. Peter, Alexandra, and Finn of Risho Maru stayed in Peter’s sisters house in Mondsee, the town made famous in the movie “Sound of Music.” We could not find a place to stay nearby, and took a chance on a newly listed AirBnB flat in Traunkirchen, on lake Traunsee, a 45 minute drive away. It turned out to be a wonderful experience. We had a great weekend with the Risho Maru’s exploring Mondsee and Bad Ischl, and hiking around Wolfgangsee and Traunsee. And the flat on Lake Traunsee was spectacular and came with wonderful hosts. We spent an additional week exploring Salzkammergut after our friends returned to Vienna, packed up their car, and drove to their boat in Italy. Below, are some of the photos from our 9 days in Salzkammergut. Tomorrow, we will post photos from Vienna, the South Tyrol, and southwestern France.
We left Antiparos heading for Denousa Island on June 12 when the wind switched around to the southwest. As we headed around the southern end of Naxos Island, we saw that it was calm and beautiful in Ormos Kalando, so we pulled in a dropped anchor, figuring that we could get to Denousa the next day. The next day the wind blew so strongly that we could neither leave the boat nor head out to sea. After a day, the conditions were good for leaving Kalando but the wind was too much on the nose for sailing to Denousa, we deviated to Kalotyri Bay in Amorgos Island.
We spent 3 very enjoyable days at Amorgos Island. We wanted to rent a car and see the island but that appeared to be difficult to arrange since there was no town where we anchored, and our mobile phone had had an unfortunate bath in the toilet that rendered it inoperable. However, I discovered Evdokia Car Rental with a Google search and a couple of emails latter, they delivered a fine little car to the beach (Ayios Pavlos) at Kalotyri Bay for their standard rate of 30 euros a day.
Amorgos island’s coastline is almost completely characterized by high, steep cliffs. There is a spectacular new road (thank you EU) along the west coast of the island that connects Aegialis in the north to the highland Chora and the ferry town of Katapola. It is only 5 miles as the crow flies to Katapola but more than 20 miles of hairpin turns to drive there. The highlight was the Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa. One drives to a small parking lot on the east coast below the Chora and hikes up to this very small monastery clinging precariously on the cliff side, built to protect a religious icon, dating from the year 812, from intruders.
From Amorgos we did a 31 hour passage direct to Kastellorizo (Megisti), the easternmost Greek island that lies only 3 miles from our marina at Kaş, Turkey, where we checked out of Greece. By moving quickly we took advantage of an excellent weather window at the start of a meltemi (period of strong northwesterly winds) plus saved some of our limited European (“Schengen”) visa days for further adventures. We are now back in our berth at the Kaş Marina.
The monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, from the trail (looking up)
We sailed from Antiparos to the bay at Vathi on the island of Sifnos where were hiked and explored for five days. We took advantage of the great bus service on the island. From Sifnos we returned to the bay between Antiparos and Despotika island. The wind was perfect for sailing in both directions.
Sotiris carries Mackeral and octopus at Captain Pepino’s Taverna, AntiparosM.
We had a great time with Laura’s sister Cathy and her husband Brock who spent five days on Sabbatical III. We met them at the ferry dock in Paroikia (Parikia), Paros Island on May 31 and took them to Sabbatical III via rental car to the Monastery at Ioaunnou Bay, and from there by dinghy to our boat in the bay. We walked the beautiful hiking trails above the bay — climbing to the highest point to get sweeping vistas toward Mykonos. The next day we drove around the island, with long walks around Naoussa and the highland town of Lefkes.
Naoussa Harbor, Paros
On June 2 we sailed from northern Paros to St. Georges Bay in Antiparos Island, a distance of 28 nautical miles. The wind and sea was up, and the first 45 minutes heading north out of Paros was quite uncomfortable. When we turned downwind in the wide channel separating Paros and Naxos, we had a much smoother, and fast, sail. The highlights of Antiparos that we experienced were it’s famous cave, the charming town of Antiparos, and the nearby uninhabited island of Despotiko. Laura and I visited Despotiko Island two years ago and all we saw were goats and a fenced in area that was clearly an archaic ruin. This time, there was a large team of Greek, Italian, and American archaeologists and their students hard at work restoring the site. The lead American took the time to explain the history of the site and then we spent time chatting with the American students.
We spent two nights anchored at Rinia Island after our passage across the Aegean from the Dodecanese Islands to the Cyclades Islands. We hoped to visit Mykonos but the southerly did not quit so we went to Finikas (Foinikas) on Syros (Siros) Island. A good anchorage but not a charming town. We took the bus across the island to the main city of Ermoupolis in order to get SIMs for our internet devices and phone from Vodafone. Ermoupolis is a beautiful town and we enjoyed walking around and climbing to the highest hill to visit one of the cathedrals.
We sailed to Kythnos Island on May 19th, anchoring in Ayios Stefanos on the east coast. We spent one week here two years ago and loved the place. Then and now, we ate one meal a day at the one taverna in this small hamlet. Two years ago we established a warm relationship with Flora, one of the family proprietors of the taverna. This year, Flora was with away so that her daughter could go to school. Her brother Antony and his wife Magdelena were there, and, of course, the parents. Antony’s mother cooked and Magdelena served, and most days we were the only customers. The spring rains brought wildflowers to the hills that rise up steeply from this bay, and we had some wonderful walks.
We joined Antony and Magdelena in their pickup truck as they went to feed and water the “lambs”, goats, and chickens at three different locations on the island. They dropped us off at the chora, the charming highland town that is the urban center of the island. There we found some working internet at a cafe, lunch, plus some small stores.
We are now anchored at Nousssa, Paros Island. More on that later.
We are way behind on our blog, so I will go through the highlights quickly and try to catch up. We left Keçi Bükü (Turkey) on April 28 heading for Agathonisi Island (Greece) in strong southerlies. That night, we stopped in Mersincik bay, at the far end of the long peninsula on which Datca is located. Just as we were entering the bay the wind increased to 35 knots with higher gusts and we could see whitecaps even inside the bay. But it was late and there seemed to be no alternatives nearby so we entered and anchored with some difficulty. In the middle of the night the wind switched to east and I sat anchor watch for a couple of hours. The wind moderated by morning and we headed for Agathonisi, just a few hours away. We have already written about the Syrian refugees arriving in Agathonisi. As the temperatures were cool, we did a lot of walking in the hills, and enjoyed a few excellent meals at George’s Taverna.
We left Agathonisi on May 3 intending to sail to the marina at Kuşadası to officially clear out of Turkey, but observing an island 10 miles to the west, we changed our minds. The island is Arki (Arkoi) and we spent a delightful two days there. We picked up a mooring in narrow Port Stretto where we had less than a foot of water under our keel. Next to us on the only other usable mooring was the British boat “Wight Egret” with David and Beverly aboard, who quickly became our friends. The mooring belonged to the Apolafsi Restaurant, where we dined twice. We walked into town (Port Augusta) every day to drink coffee and use the internet.
On May 5, we sailed from Arki Island to the Setur Marina in Kuşadası, Turkey. In the windy strait between Samos Island and Turkey (Mycale Strait), the glass cover on the vanity smashed and bits of glass fell into the toilet and stuck in the toilet pump. That, along with an erratic engine thermostat, gave me some more things to do in the marina. Two days in Kuşadası were enough to provision the boat, fix the toilet and thermostat, and get officially cleared out of Turkey. On May 7, we sailed to Pythagorion (named after their most famous son, Pythagoras) on the south coast of Samos Island in order to officially clear into Greece. Even though the Samos Marina knew we were coming, there was much confusion when we arrived. Inside the tight confines of the marina, with 25 knots of wind, the lone “marinaro” (“boat boy”) changed his mind twice on where we should tie up. Laura was running over the deck moving fenders and lines while I struggled to control the boat until we tied side-to on a concrete dock. The next day we rented a car and drove to Vathi in order to get SIMs for our mobile phone, USB modem, and iPad, and then drove around the island.
We sailed from Pythagorion, Samos to Lipso (Lipsi) Island on May 11, anchoring off of the beach at Katsidia at the sparsely populated southern end of the island. We had been told that Delilah’s Taverna on the beach was excellent. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovation. The day after we arrived, we walked 35 minutes to Lipsi town up and down a steep road and had lunch at the Kalypso Restaurant. We dawdled over ice coffee waiting to see if it would rain but finally decided it would not and walked on the town quay to see the sail boats tied up there. Just as it started to pour, we came about “Wight Egret” whom we met in Arki the week before. David and Beverly invited us aboard to get shelter from the rain which soon turned into successive waves of thunderstorms accompanied by strong winds. After two hours on “Wight Egret” there was no end to the rain in sight and it was getting dark. We found the island’s only taxi driver and he took us to Katsadia with our iPads protected by an umbrella borrowed from “Wight Egret”.
On May 14 we sailed from Lipsi Island to Blefouti (Plakouti) in northern Leros Island in order to get protection from the approaching southerlies. On the way, we anchored off of uninhabited Arkhangelos Island for a swim. On the sail over, we caught up with “Wight Egret” and we anchored together in a small cove at the western end of the island. Everyone swam but me — the water is still too cold for my taste, although the day was delightfully warm. Laura could not speak for the first minute after she got in, but then got used to the temperature. “Wight Egret” had lunch on Sabbatical III and then headed for Lakki, while we went on to Blefouti. We had a nice walk around the bay. Unfortunately, the one taverna at Blefouti had not opened for the season yet and we were left to have scrambled eggs for supper. The next morning (yesterday, May 15), we left Blefouti at 6 am to sail across to the western side of the Aegean, ending up in Rinia Island (just west of Mykonos) after a 13 hour sail in a decent southerly with a tiring steep chop. Today we are just resting.
There were Syrian refugees in the tiny Greek town of St. George’s on AgathonisiIsland where we spent the last few days. They show up every night here, arriving on large inflatable rafts, from somewhere on the Turkish coast. Let me describe the town and the setting. The bay in Agathonisi is very small. There is room for 2 or maybe three boats to anchor and some additional room at the town quay for another 3 boats to Med moor to shore. There is a very large concrete dock that pretty much takes over the entire eastern side of the bay. We think it was built to accommodate the ferries that come in a few times a week to deliver goods or people to the island. Most of the time the islander’s fishing boats tie up next to it until the ferry arrives, and then they move off to accommodate the larger boat’s needs. There are only seven or eight commercial establishments in town, all facing the little bay: two tavernas, a snack/coffee shop, two tiny grocery stores and a couple of homes offering rooms to rent. There might be a couple hundred year round residents on the island. There is also a small rocky beach in the bay that the local kids and occasional tourist go for a swim.
We pulled into the bay on Wednesday, the 29th of April, at about six pm, and were pleased to find ourselves one of only two visiting boats in the anchorage. From the anchorage you are only 50 feet from the stores and tavernas and we could see the locals going about their business as usual… painting new signs for the little general store, the local policeman washing his car, a few moms with baby carriages pushing their kids down the sidewalk. We also noticed a large group of men sitting in the opening of a building that seemed to be a community center, just 50 feet up the hill from the main street. We assumed it was some type of party.
The next morning when we looked out, we saw that there were even a larger group of people gathered on the patio of the community center, and also about 30 men sleeping, or sitting in small groups, on the large concrete dock near us. Most were dressed in blue jeans, and jackets. Most had back-packs. Still totally not cognizant of what was going on, we decided they must be day-laborers brought to the island to do some work. But, it didn’t take too much longer for us to realize that they were refugees. There is a small army presence on the island and before long some official looking Greek men started organizing the men on the dock into small groups, and had them line up. A small chartered ferry soon arrived and part of the group of the men climbed on-board and were ferried away.The remaining men that were on the dock were loaded onto the deck of a Greek Coast Guard cutter An hour later we saw a larger group of people start to come down from the community center. It was mostly men, but also a few women and children. The women were dressed conservatively, with headscarves and long skirts. All of these people were lined up in groups and quietly waited for the next bigger ferry to arrive and take them away.
In the meantime, there was no sign of unease among the Greeks onshore. Kids continued to ride their bikes around, some young women were sun-bathing on the beach, and the townspeople continued their local business, most of them scooting in and out of town on motor-cycles. The small fishing boats came and went on the docks as well.
We went onshore and spoke to the woman who runs the small grocery store to ask about what was going on. She told us that the refugees arrive almost nightly. She guessed there might have been 500 or more this year. They come in large (but not large enough) inflatable boats (see photo). A Greek coast guard cutter is positioned a few miles off-shore (see photo) and she said it has become almost a daily occurrence that one or more groups of these immigrants show up in the middle of the night onAgathonisi. There they await transfer (usually within a day) to the larger island of Samos, and then on to Athens and ultimately elsewhere in Europe. This is undoubtedly happening on all of the Greek islands that are close to Turkey.
She said that these people tended to have some resources… many had cash andpurchased food in the store, and as far as she could tell us, they had paid fairly significant amounts of money to get on the boats that took them from Turkey to Greece (which meant they now would have access to other EU countries).
For the day or so that they are on Agathonisi they must stay in the little community center. There they are provided with food and drink. We walked by the center a few times and although we didn’t want to “spy”, we couldn’t help trying to see what was going on. The women and children looked healthy and even smiled and waved at us. The men were very quiet. Since these were the ones who have “made it”, I am guessing that despite their travails and uncertain future, they might have been feeling quite a bit of relief of having made it safely to the EU.
On our third night in Agathonisi we were awakened at 3:00 am by cries coming from close by. We looked out and saw a Coast Guard boat positioned near the concrete dock. Behind it was an inflatable dinghy sitting low in the water with what looked like about 20 people onboard. Another 20 people had already jumped or fallen out of the dinghy, into the very cold water, and were frantically trying to swim to the tall concrete dock while calling out loudly in Arabic. Women were screaming. It looked like the people in the water did not really know how to swim, and besides it was dark, and the water was cold, and they were trying to maintain their backpacks. It was also clear, however, that the Coast Guard was not about to let anyone die, and those in the water made it up onto the dock within a few minutes. The only words we could make out were “English?” and “baby!”, which was pretty heart-stopping. The others, who had remained in the inflatable had an easier time as they were pulled right alongside the Coast guard boat and were helped onboard and then they were able to walk onto the dock without getting wet. All had life jackets. There was a full moon so it was quite easy to see what was happening, plus we were anchored quite close by. We still can’t understand how they get from Turkey (11 miles away) to this little island on those inflatables. We don’t think there was even an engine on them and 11 miles is a huge distance at sea in an overloaded inflatable raft. Perhaps they set out from Turkey on a larger boat and then they get dropped off once they are in sight of Greek land and/or a Coast Guard ship. It is hard to understand and extremely disturbing to witness.
The group was led off to the community center and the next morning we saw them all sitting in the warm sun, hopefully somewhat rested and rehydrated. We took a walk to the local dumpster to drop off some trash and found all of the large trash containers filled to overflowing with the discarded life-jackets of the refugees. They must be throwing out hundreds and hundreds of these. The inflatable dinghies get punctured (probably by the Coast Guard), their plywood bottoms removed, and then these also get trashed. It’s a lot for a small island to absorb.
We left Agathonision Sunday, and headed to the nearby island of Arki which is not getting any of the refugees. It is another 10 miles further from the Turkish coast which probably explains the difference.
All is well on board Sabbatical III. We are safe and well and have to say that we are having an interesting year.
Sabbatical III is back in the water and we are getting her ready for a cruise up the Turkish Aegean coast and then to the Greek Isles. We spent four nights living aboard while Sabbatical III was on the hard (above), using the ladder pictured to get on and off.
We are back in our previous berth at Pontoon C berth 13. Next to us in C14 is a sea turtle (below) who is very polite and does not disturb us even when she eats the marine growth on our underwater lines.
On the other side of us, in berth C12, there is a school of sea bream (below) who are quiet except when you throw them some bread — then its a feeding frenzy.
Plus the young ones who hang out at our stern in C13 (below).
We are almost finished with our maintenance and improvement projects and should be ready to head north-west up the coast by Sunday or Monday.