On the nose


Newsletters 2006

Malta to Turkey

Letter from Malta

April 2006


It’s the middle of April, and we are nearly at the end of our winter stop over in Malta. The weather is brilliant at last and we are behind with the boat work. We’re working very hard at the moment, getting Yanina ready for the summer’s sailing and attacking some more of the big jobs that were on the wish list when we bought her. Bob has suddenly got a rash of commissions for cartoons as people realize we are leaving soon, Liz has furniture design to do, and suddenly there aren’t enough hours in a day. To add to this, most of the liveaboards are back, so there’s a lot of socialising. The ‘Black Pearl’ has free wine on a Wednesday, and Thursdays can be very unproductive. So far we have repaired the windlass and had a new Rocna anchor shipped from New Zealand.

                                       This is Peter Smith, designer of the Rocna anchor. See his website at www.rocna.com

We've also installed a holding tank, put a new hatch in the heads, installed or repaired GPS, VHF and Navtex plus varnishing, washing sails, ropes. The damp Maltese winter has made a few things mouldy and Yanina is grimy from the ever present Malta dust and greasy with the soot from the hospital chimney (don’t think about it).

It’s sunny and warm now if there’s no wind, but the Maltese weather has made the winter seem very long at times. Never have we seen so much rain, it even beat North Wales. There were huge downpours that went on for days and all the streets became rivers, yet amazingly, Malta has no facilities to collect water and mains water comes instead from a de-salination plant on the north of the island. We have had days of howling wind, but have escaped the worst of the infamous ‘Gregales’ from the NE which can throw boats from the harbour up onto the main street when they go on for days. Talking to other yachties who are wintering in Turkey, Tunisia and Sardinia it seems that this is pretty typical for winter in these latitudes of the eastern Mediterranean if you include an element of climate change too. This is a great let down after our mild winter in Almerimar on the Costa del Sol last year. What other options are there? Cyprus – very popular and one marina is booked up for two years, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt maybe.

The way to go (number plate RIP 001)

When we first got to Malta, we hauled Yanina out of the water and lived in Manoel Island boatyard whilst we antifouled the hull and serviced the seacocks. It was hard work and Yanina was covered with dust when other boats around were being grit-blasted. The radio in the boatyard played hits like ‘Summer Holiday’; and someone was whistling a Bill Haley hit, one of the many faces of Malta as a British 1950’s time-warp. We listened to the Maltese calling to each other in their peculiar staccato speech, where the second syllable is heavily emphasized and every conversation sounds like an argument and conversation is peppered with English words. The Maltese often sound courteously old fashioned, they call women ‘ma-dam’, they say ‘bye-bye’ and ‘al-right?’ The weather was still very hot, and early one evening we heard the sound of a horse whinnying and looked out to see one swimming with it’s owner and cooling off amongst the moored boats. This was the first of many glimpses we have had of the simple and eccentric Maltese approach to life. Another day we saw a man in the street holding a lead, on the end of which was a young goat. Along the causeway, someone has built ‘Duck Village’, a sanctuary with nesting boxes in everything from old cupboards to an old sailing boat.        Duck village

 Manoel Island is connected by a bridge to a busy waterfront teeming with little shops. To the north, Sliema Creek is full of ferries and so many floating cans and lines it was a nightmare getting Yanina round there. To the south, Lazaretto Creek houses the big boats where we cycle past and gaze enviously at some lovely yachts, but not the location, the swell comes in frequently. Round the corner is Msida Creek and marina and this has been our world for the last six months. The buildings along the waterfront are in no particular order, which is probably due to the fact that most of Malta was bombed into rubble during the war. The roads and pavements are in a terrible state too, broken up by the torrential rain in winter. Small businesses thrive and there are many hardware and chandlers shops that spill out onto the street with their wares. It’s easy to be seduced by the prices but Brits must be careful, 1LM – Maltese pound, is £1.60 GBP. There are vegetable wagons that appear at 4pm, after the 4 hour afternoon siesta and often the vendors have two jobs, one in the morning, but the prices are no cheaper than the supermarkets. You can get British groceries though, which is so nice after 2 years away from the UK; gravy granules, PG Tips, orange squash, Heinzzz everything – we’ll stock up. Overall though it’s not cheap living in Malta, most things are imported. Vegetables and fruit come from Italy, apart from ‘local greens’ – rocket, celery, lettuce, herbs. The latter are usually entertainingly crawling with snails.

Maltese bus - each one carries a shrine                                                                         Maltese skyscraper

Life seems to have a slower pace here, the Maltese people are very polite and friendly, old fashioned, and religious. If you want to cross the road, cars will stop for you, if you need help, someone will come and ask you if they see you hesitating, at the doctors, the waiting room is full of chatter, not silence. Family and people seem to come first and we have never seen any yobs or grafitti. The charm does not extend to the surroundings though. You can get a bus anywhere very cheaply and a day’s tour revealed very little countryside and endless towns that looked like they were in a continual state of rebuild, everything being made of crumbling sandstone blocks. There are a few beaches and many tacky ‘Brits abroad’ resorts and nightlife areas. There are plenty of historical buildings and fortifications to go at to do with the Sieges and the Knights of St John, and Valletta nearby is an interesting town with amazing views at the waterfront. If you like war memorabilia, there are several museums about the second world war, and there are many unique and prehistoric stone sites dating back to 6000 BC. Malta has also been used many times as a film set. It is an eccentric place, and it grows on you.

 We were still pursuing the idea of crossing to Tunisia if we could find a mooring but it was as difficult as usual to get information, then the decision was made for us when Bob fell off his bike in November (sober at the time, the gear cables had rusted in the salt air), and fractured his collar bone. He was in quite a bit of pain at first but fortunately it was his left shoulder. We happened to be moored up in sight of St Luke’s hospital, a sooty and crumbling 1950’s building, (the one that belches black smoke out of a tall chimney), so we walked there. Bob was shunted from one waiting room that smelled of pee to another and another, ‘knock on this door and ask for Joey’ we were told. Bob was x-rayed and eventually seen by a bunch of medical students sitting round an examination trolley, drinking coke out of bottles. Eccentricities aside, the care has been excellent and included physiotherapy. The physiotherapy waiting room had a shrine in the corner with statuettes of Mary, Jesus and lighted candles. Bob went for several weeks and endured Laura the physio as she insulted his posture and muscle-tone. He got his own back by presenting her with a cartoon of her on his last day. 

 Liz had planta fasciitis - inflammation in her feet from being barefoot on deck, (we have met a few yachties who have developed this chronic problem), so from November till February we were often boat-bound but not idle as we ran Yanina’s business empire.  Bob was busy drawing cartoons with his good arm and he produced Christmas cards, pulled together twenty chapters of a book illustrated with cartons, and completed commissions. Liz did some more furniture design work for a company in England, we couldn’t practice any music though. There was a British community that organised events at the Slipway Lounge on the waterfront but there were only about 20 liveaboads in Msida creek so it was quieter than last year and the bad weather kept people indoors too. Most went home to England for Christmas but we still cooked a turkey and then Alex and Fran turned up from Croatia, bound for the Caribbean and joined us, giving us a genoa, as well as Alex's accordian playing. Malta is dead centre in the Mediterranean and a bit of a cross-roads, and there has been a steady stream of long distance sailors turning up for a few weeks or months. Paul from England, heading down the Red Sea to India and Thailand; Graham and Iris from Australia heading to England and Ireland; Chuck and Diane from Maine USA going to Greece and Turkey then back out of the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

                                                 The Luzzu fishing boat with eyes to ward off the Devil

Eyes for sale on the Sunday market at Marsaxlokk 


The yachties always swap skills and information, and here we were able to swap charts, books, pilots and software, and make some good friends into the bargain. We have since met several yachts who spent part of the winter in Tunisia and they all say the same thing, a great place to visit, but hard work to be there on a yacht for five months. It is cheap to eat and live, but it’s tough going to get places and shop, and getting boat spares is virtually impossible, so they mostly came to Malta to get them instead. So maybe it turned out right after all. Now the waterfront is busy with the good weather and people working on their boats and the liveaboads keep having ‘one last party before we go’. Our time runs out on our mooring at the end of April and we have a lot of goodbyes to say this week, but maybe ‘au revoir’. We are planning to go to Gozo, then Siracusa on Sicily, then a long sail to the Ionian to Corfu and Levkas. Round the Peloponese and up to Northern Greece, the Halkidiki peninsula, through the Dardanelles to Istanbul and then back down the coast of Turkey. So many of our friends are heading east we will surely meet them again on our travels.

The Ionian and the Peloponnese to Attica

8th May to 4th July 2006


I’m writing, Bob is drawing, and Yanina is bucking up and down in Lavrion harbour near Athens in 30 knots of wind. At least the wind generator is topping up the power for the computer. We’ll take a break soon and go on shore, and then we won’t be able to walk straight. Arggh, the Mediterranean winds, now we know why it took Odysseus 25 years to get home. They’re supposed to calm down at the end of this week and then we may be able to make some progress north.


On June 19th at sunrise, we rounded Cape Maleas, the eastern and southernmost tip of the Greek Peloponnese. Can we stop holding our breath? Described as a mini Cape Horn, other yachties recommended a dawn start before the wind got up. There was none, and we peered closely at the monastery perched on the rocks in this lonely place (are the monks nearer to God here, or further away from worldly temptations)? The Peloponnese, once a peninsula, now an island with the Corinth canal, has three long fingers and one short. Tiny villages, towns, harbours and anchorages, nestle at the foot of mountain ranges that can also create severe gusts of wind at times. That is the mix. Although often very pretty, the bays attract squalls, thunderstorms and katabatic winds. In six weeks we’ve travelled from Malta and Gozo to Sicily, then east across to the Ionian islands and we chose to go round the Peloponnese rather than through the Corinth canal to the Aegean sea. We’re glad we’ve seen it, and it has lived up to it’s reputation for challenging sailing too.


Malta to Gozo was a beautiful sail with the wind ‘off the land’ - a phrase we learned from the local Maltese sailors. From there, a gusty day sail to Siracusa. The anchorage off the town is beautiful and we lingered a couple of days but Greece beckoned. There was a gathering of yachts from Malta. One little story - Irene on ‘Legend’ was washing a fabric dinghy cover that she’d found in a skip in the boatyard in Malta, then ‘Odette’ came by and her owners recognised it as the one that they’d thrown out. We set off with ‘Strummer’ and ‘Kiah’ with just the right wind and a bright blue sea. Strummer got further away north, heading for Croatia, then back to Malta to go across the Atlantic. We sailed across the Ionian sea with Kiah for 3 days and 2 nights and the perfect conditions became a NE6 wind and not the kinder NW5 predicted. The wind and seas built up. At night we couldn’t see the huge waves except for their hissing white crests as they seemed to almost come over the dodgers and then miraculously dive under Yanina’s hull at the last minute. On arrival though, the North East Ionian sea was a peaceful lake full of islands with green wooded hills, turn the corner into a bay and a little village nestles in the corner like a jewel, a perfect antidote to the busy and dusty beige towns that make up Malta. Vathi on Ithica island is a port of entry into Greece with a very pretty and prosperous looking village. Inland, the monastery too had a different character as the 2-300 miles of Ionian sea shifted us from Maltese Catholicism to Greek Orthodox. On to anchor in Tranquil bay, Nidri on Lefkas island, but we missed seeing Allan Gauchi of Sunvil Sailing,

 whose flotilla holidays have nurtured the sailing ambitions of many people including ourselves.


 Vathi on Ithica                                                                                                      At the monastery

Alan and Doreen on ‘Kiah’ joined us to drive through the mountains to the Meteora monasteries, built perched on the rocks in the 13th century to keep the monks and their treasures safe from invaders (and presumably nearer to God, further from worldly temptations). ‘Homer Car Hire’ proudly showed Bob and Alan photos of his English setter hunting dogs. ‘Bears or deer’? asks Alan, ‘No…..birds’. The road snaked through mountains with snow on their peaks, and through wooded alpine valleys. Seeking a lakeside picnic spot at Ioannina, we found a derelict stadium on the shores complete with seating and electronic scorepanel, gardens on the shore and a mountain backdrop - we were witnessing an Olympic white elephant.

  Snake eats fish at Ioannina Lake

 At Meteora the ‘Koka Roka’ taverna had rooms, literally at the foot of the rocks and we were in the company of ‘Lonely Planet’ travellers. The monasteries and rocks were stunning, there is no other word. Rousanou, a nunnery, was tiny, like an ecclesiastical Wendy house; Megalo Meteoro was the largest and quite touristy with a museum and exhibits including a collection of skulls. No crampons were necessary, they all have steps and bridges now, added in the 1920’s. We admired the others at sunset against the backdrop of the Thessaly plains and were joined by the only monk we ever saw. Back at Koka Roka, Arthur our host, grilled meat over tree bark in the fireplace followed by one too many beers, and Katerina his mother, was hospitable and caring, it was only on the second night that we realised there was Dad too, sitting at a table outside. After two days, the rocks were beginning to feel hot and oppressive. ‘I suppose they look quite dramatic in winter’? asks Liz; ‘No’ replied Arthur dejectedly, ‘they are the same’. Driving back, we took the southern route, a big red road on the map, and somewhere between discussing politics and the Queen, the navigation took us onto dirt mountain tracks with herds of cattle, running streams, sheer drops and finally a tunnel still under construction. ‘Have you been driving on Igoumentas beach?’ asked Homer.                   Koka Roka 

Onward to tiny Meganisi island to moor in Spartahouri where the family taverna spills out onto a pebbly beach and the brother’s take your lines, no charge, but they hope you’ll eat with them at least once. An inland trek to a hill village found everybody living outside their front doors; the women still dressed in traditional black, bundling herbs to dry, a group of men talking in a bar surrounded by beer crates and colours - lime green walls, red bougainvillaea, blue tables, rival fruit and veg. vans parked outside in a shouting stand off. The old and the new; a woman weaves cloth for the tourists, a peasant couple roar past on a quad bike, an astroturf five-a-side football pitch drops in from space, a goat herd fixes a wooden trough with a battery operated drill. A sweet old lady in traditional dress posed for a photograph and we gave her a coin, not sure about offending her – ‘another’ she said smiling. On the road we passed sheep being sheared half way up a hill, a donkey carrying wood faggots, olive groves and tinkling goat bells, a sense of timelessness. Back at Spartahouri, the skies became cloudy. Yanina was on the harbour wall, sandwiched between other yachts. A flurry of rumours and snatched conversations '40 knots and thunderstorms' - it’s like opening the hen coop door and whispering 'Fox'. The sun came out, the wind died and we swam off the beach at the end of the bay. But the weather continued to be changeable for the next fortnight, a lot cooler, sullen cloudy skies and strong winds at times. This weather has been the backdrop to our sailing down through the Southern Ionian and the Peloponnese.

Kastos island, Kefallonia island, then a long sail down to the Greek mainland, a soft green and cultivated landscape, and Katacolon, the first port on the Peloponnese. The pilot book warned us there was an unfinished marina and we came in alongside a concrete breakwater that shielded a decaying collection of wooden pontoons. The concrete was baking hot and the village was sleepy in the late afternoon, yet a closer inspection revealed a main street full of gift, clothes and newspaper shops  - (‘Heather and Macca porn shock’), a row of waterfront tavernas, port police and customs, with an air of readiness about them. All was revealed when a cruiseliner turned up in the main harbour the next morning and the village sprang to life like clockwork. The car park filled with coaches to Olympia, Greek music played in the tavernas and there were horse-drawn carriages. The village was busy till 1pm when the liner departed and the clockwork stopped. We were to find many more unfinished marinas on the Peloponnese and were told that they had been funded with EU money and built using the cheapest materials. This may only be a tale, but another factor may be that there just isn’t enough sailing going on here to justify maintaining them. Most yachts we have met are ‘on passage’ to and from the Ionian and Aegean sea like us.


The next leg of our journey took us to Pilos and another unfinished concrete marina, however, round the corner the village had a pretty harbour and square. 5 camper vans turned up -  the first of many that we have seen here. The terrain lends itself to camping. There are often no facilities and many deserted bays with no restrictions. We have sailed to the ends of the green fingers and they have motored. The next day we rounded the first finger and had 25 knots of wind, but behind us as we goose-winged the sails (1 either side)  and we were gliding in surely the most elegant and beautiful sailing direction. We passed Methoni which looked idyllic with a Venetian castle and Turkish fort, a beach and anchorage, but too exposed in that wind to turn and stay the night? But when we rounded the corner to Koroni, we still had to face the 25 knots of wind, anchor in it, and it blew all night. We could see another yacht - ‘Blackfoot Warrior’.         Two Warriors

 The next day was calm and Koroni was a tiny sweet village in the sun. The internet in the library was free but slow slow and we walked to the Venetian castle (one of many here) and we lingered another night, met Ian and Heather and compared Warrior-owner-type notes, we even have the same dinghy. Our next port was to be Kalamata at the head of the gulf, with a marina where we could leave Yanina safely and visit Mistra, an ancient hill town. The landscape we were passing became more rugged and hilly, then it became cold and cloudy, and a nice sail suddenly became a thunderstorm on a lee shore and we came into the marina in a squall. (We were very interested to know that Ian has fitted bow-thrusters to ‘Blackfoot Warrior’ himself. These can give a sideways burst from a propeller at either side and ‘thrust the bow’ over – we think we would like some for occasions like this). Kalamata is a plain working Greek town but the marina is quite good and people winter here.  We hired a car …’Pliss mister, slow, slow, slow and no drinkie’ and we drove across the same mountains on switchback roads through a landscape of rocks and boulders with straggly pine trees to Mistra with panoramic views of Sparta and the Taigetos mountains.                                  Sparta beyond Mistra

In a succession of day sails, we worked our way round the Peloponnese middle finger following the line of the ever present Taigetos mountains. The peninsula is named the ‘Outer and Inner Mani’ and is famous for the feuding that went on between the locals where they built higher and higher ‘Maniot’ towers on their houses in order to spy on and shoot at their neighbours. Limini, Diros and Kayio were remote anchorages surrounded by stark hills, with a few houses and camper vans. The winds were up and down all day and night, and nowhere did we feel safe to leave Yanina apart from a trip ashore to the Diros caves when it was calm. Round the corner, Kayio was a small attractive and secluded bay with a pebbly beach, three tavernas, Maniot-style apartments, several camper vans and a short path to a tiny chapel on a cliff top, (the door fastened with bent wire). We had one lazy day at anchor, the only yacht there, then katabatic winds arrived without warning and screeched down the hillsides all night.

  Kayio and camper vans                                                                               Stalactites at Diros                     

 Next morning, Yanina was literally ‘shooed out’ of the bay with 25 knots of wind behind her. Unfortunately,  it was one of those days for katabatic gusts all down the coast. These fanned out in all directions at each gap in the Taigetos mountains, making sailing impossible. With the sprayhood up and the engine on, we battled our way to Ythion and anchored in the centre of the old harbour. The wind blew and blew, died at dusk, blew at midnight. Next day it was flat calm. Ythion is a lovely Greek village and we were in civilisation again with hair cuts, broadband internet, a wedding with cars driving up and down, horns blaring. A German boat came in with a motorbike on deck, the butcher was an attractive young girl dressed to go out in white top, slacks, dainty sandals and sporting long red finger nails. We left to the sounds of a Greek Orthodox priest singing (wailing) and 5 dolphins came to play under the bow. Frangos bay at the head of Elefanos island near the end of the third Peloponnese finger, had beautiful bright turquoise seas and sandy beaches. We’d have liked to go ashore, but the onshore breeze was stiff, and this is a very unsheltered bay.

Round the corner from Ak Maleas at the tip of the third finger, is Monemvasia, which has a mini Gibraltar rock where the old 15th century fortified town is still thriving with shops, bars and hotels. The plan was to anchor, but the bay was littered with rocks so we moored up inside the concrete breakwater on a broken wooden pontoon. It was extremely hot and still, and we waited to walk across the causeway and explore the old town at  sunset. Still not a breath of wind, then we went to bed and all hell broke loose at 1am with a katabatic wind shoving Yanina and two other yachts onto the pontoon. We called in at Ierakas a very attractive and sheltered fishing harbour but hot, then on to Kiparissi, no wind, still very hot, so we anchored in the north under cliffs topped with olive groves and the sound of goat bells, and it was cooler. We prepared everything for katabatic gusts of wind in the night, then nothing happened. We planned to stay the next day but the wind started gusting from the NE and when it stopped, Yanina rolled in a SE swell, too dangerous to berth on the harbour wall. Blackfoot Warrior texted they were in Fokianos, an hour away, in calm. We went out into 25 knots of wind and rough seas, sprayhood up and motor on again, and found them anchored in peaceful turquoise water with a line ashore and swimming off the boat, amazing. An idyllic deserted bay with a pebbly beach, one taverna with one man cooking, and one camper van. Even then it had it’s moments with katobatic gusts off the hills at night. These arrived at the flick of a switch, heralded with a sudden blast of hot air, like dragons breath; and there were strong onshore winds and swell on the second afternoon.                               Monemvasia

 ‘We must see Navplion, (quote) “the most elegant town in Greece”…’ said Bob the next day as we were preparing to leave the Peloponnese for Hydra island. Navplion was briefly the capital of Greece before Athens and a culture shock after a deserted bay. A smelly harbour wall, (very smelly), but a clean beach on the south side ( but morning swimming - the wind and swell come in every afternoon), and a gem of a town with elegant bars and restaurants on the back streets and disco bars on the front with music till 6-30am, all with the backdrop of a fortress on the rocky peninsula with 999 steps to get to the top. On Saturday night we had a go at busking on the streets as a steady stream of people trickled past.




Travellers of the Peloponnese seas


Since Navplion, we have sailed to Porto Khelio, opposite Spetsai island, Ermione, our last port on the Peloponnese, then to Poros island, then Lavrion. We now seem to be dodging gales and strong winds – all unfortunately blowing from the N NE where we want to go. We swung at anchor in a NE gale in Porto Khelio for two days and ‘Rocky’ our new anchor, held well. Hydra now out - open to the north, diverted into Ermione with strong headwinds, we were rewarded with a pretty harbour. We left Poros island with one day to get here before this gale erupted. Poros was really interesting. The narrow channel between it and the mainland provided us with a lot of entertainment; first with the pilotage – lots of islands, shallows and the risk of meeting a huge ferry half way – we followed another yacht. Then we anchored off and admired the view of the town and quayside and the mayhem across the water from afar,– there are towns both sides, and a beautiful sunset. It was the weekend and Saturday evening the quayside was jammed with power boats from Athens, their owners sitting determinedly on deck, with the harbour smells and the slop from so many boats moving. We were nearly run over several times getting across in the dinghy in the dark, despite flashing a torch.

We are currently bows to the harbour wall in Lavrion, east of Athens, as a NE force 8 gale rages, we can see the white caps on the waves outside. It’s uncomfortable but we are facing the wind, our mooring lines are holding. At first, we kept getting moved on by power boats claiming to own our spot, once during a thunderstorm, but we can stay here till it calms down. We would like the weather to favour our plans a bit more though please. Six weeks of Mediterranean sailing and this is the nearest we have got  to a break. We’ve learned to be in a state of readiness for anything that may turn up weatherwise. At night we now stow everything away and leave the keys in the ignition, just in case. 

Marmaris, Southern Turkey

October 2006

Since July, we have sailed north from Lavrion near Athens to the green wooded shores of northern Greece, the sandy beaches of the Khalkidiki peninsula, then east across to rocky Limnos island and the Turkish coast, heading into each pine-forested gulf. The northern Greek waters are sparsely populated with yachts, and we have been to some beautiful places, but our enjoyment has been tempered, particularly in July and August, by the Meltemi - the strong northerly wind that blows in the Aegean all summer, and turn it into a washing machine with a tendency to programme at no. 8 gale force.


We left Lavrion near Athens after the first week of gales, which left headwinds and lumpy seas inside the Evia island channel. The two coastlines meet at Khalki where there is a big town and a lifting bridge - supposed to lift at slack water, but as we found out, lifts at ‘slack traffic’. The harbourmaster was behind a counter with ancient files stacked round him - flash motorbike outside, and he promised that the bridge would lift at 2230,……it finally opened at 0300. After many cups of strong coffee, false starts and with quite a current, 20 odd boats shot through the narrow gap in a blaze of lights, music and flashing cameras from the nightclubs. Propping our eyelids open, we headed out into inky blackness looking for an anchorage with the aid of computer charts and GPS; but something wasn’t quite right and the shore-lights seemed cut off. Moving slowly forward with the aid of a torch, we found …. a new stone breakwater, 100 yards away.


In the morning, the Evia channel was a peaceful lake and we sailed to a reedy anchorage on the mainland side with little fishing boats and funny jelly blobs in the water as we swam. Next day, on turning east however, we met a torrent of water and a strong headwind as we timed it badly to be entering the only tidal area in the Aegean at flood tide. A rapid 180 degree turn had us white-water rafting to the nearest bay to anchor in-between people swimming, - these contrasts are always amazing. We tried the channel again at dawn, before the tide, and wind, and it was fine. A lumpy sea with wind on the beam took us to Skopolos island, to anchor in a bay fringed by a sandy beach and an English looking nature reserve with green trees, holiday-makers and egg and bacon – great; tripper boats with cheerleaders – not so great. Thunderstorms at night and another lumpy beam reach NE to the Khalkadiki peninsula and Porto Koufo. This almost enclosed harbour, shaped like a wrinkled sock, was hidden behind a steep and barren coastline, the entrance a tiny passage. Inside was total shelter with a backdrop of green mountains, a fishing harbour and pontoon, two or three shops and tavernas and a sandy beach stretching along the shoreline. We anchored and stayed two nights - it’s at places like this that you find you’re running out of cash. We were invited onto a Moody 42 for coffee and Turkish biscuits by Peter and Sandra from Hull who had wintered in Marmaris for 4 years and had sailed to Istanbul.

The Khalkadiki peninsula turned out to be a miniature, more tranquil version of the Peloponnese where the Greek families have their vacations and we saw few western Europeans. Some of the best sandy beaches had music that we could hear for miles though and we were glad to be offshore. N. Diasporos anchorage, Skiathos, Pirgadhikia, then Ammouliani island. The harbour there was full of Mount Athos tripper boats and we moored on the outside wall next to a yacht – which then left – always disconcerting. The mountainous Atki peninsula is full of medieval monasteries and holy communities of monks whose way of life has changed little since that period. It can only be visited with a permit obtained from the Greek Ministry, and females are not allowed, even half a mile offshore. We sailed along the peninsula at dawn for our own tour of over 20 monasteries which revealed themselves at every bay, on the shores and half-way up the rugged cliffs. There were quite a few building cranes – bringing them into the 21st century? Finally, Mount Athos (shown here) towered above us, wreathed in clouds dotted with hermit shelters and then we were in open seas and heading for    

  Mount Athos and monasteries, Atki peninsula              

Limnos, a long day and we decided to stop and rest in Mirina harbour. One day extended to eight when gales sprang up. As in Lavrion, we were lucky to be on a harbour wall at a time when the Meltemi decided to blow day and night and the port authorities didn’t charge us after the first night. Limnos is off the general tourist track but Mirina has a picturesque fishing harbour with seafood restaurants, rivalling those of the Cyclades. We toured the island on a motorbike, tacking on land against very strong NE winds – little villages, ‘rabbit cooked with onions’, a Transylvanian franchise selling kebabs, rugged hills, farming valleys and Moudhros, the huge almost landlocked bay where the British and Anzac forces waited  to launch their attack on the Dardinelles, now bare and empty.                                            

Istanbul ?.......We were getting dubious about our chances of sailing up the Dardanelles. The pilot books don’t specify any favourable months, but do contain advice in dealing with a significant SW current and confused seas off Limnos in NE gales. Looking around us wasn’t good news and there were two other yachts on the harbour wall who had just come back from Istanbul. ‘you have left it too late in the season,’ was their advice, but we still wanted to try. When the winds died down we set off NE for Gokceada island and 4 hours later we were struggling with big headwinds, huge seas and a strong current, and we hadn’t even left the shelter of Limnos island. We had to admit defeat, turn round and go back. Two days later, we headed SE for Lesvos island and experienced the same thing. When the waves began to crash over the sprayhood into the cockpit, we turned and ran before them SW to a tiny island called Ay Evstratios. We were amazed that the current from the Dardanelles was extending over sixty miles out, how on earth could we motor against that and strong winds for 200 miles in Yanina? Later, on finally reaching Lesvos, we sadly made the decision to give up the idea and head south down the Turkish coast.

Zoe, Dimitri and their son Georgio were in the harbour at Ay Evstratios in a tiny speed boat that Dimitri had built himself. We met them at Limnos, heading this way, but we hadn’t expected to join them. They live and work in Thessaloniki, and love this simple island with no roads, a safe harbour, one village and a sandy beach. A ferry turned up with the islands bread supply, depositing Greek weekenders, and island music played in the taverna. A fisherman borrowed our hose and gave us so many fish we donated them to the taverna and they cooked some for us. With Zoe translating, we learned that the seas were still big, prompting Dimitri, whose English was not as good, to make throat-cutting gestures. Do we go or do we stay? - two days later, the seas settled and gave us a moderately bumpy sail to Lesvos. In Mithymna, we were the only yacht and the harbour was taken up by two large fishing boats, unable by law to fish in July, (although the boats at Ay Eystratious had been fishing freely). A picturesque fishing harbour, old town and castle. Local bestselling book – ‘The School Mistress with the Golden Eyes’.



Greece to Turkey


Motoring across the gulf to Turkey, ironically in flat calm. Suddenly there were bright red flags, posters of Ataturk, and the muezzin calling. Ayvalik marina was the friendliest introduction to Turkey. The staff were helpful, went through the clearing-in procedure with us and the offices we had to visit were all next to each other. Generally, Turkish marinas were new, finished well, with excellent service - every time we came in we were helped by a rib acting as a tug to nudge Yanina, which for us in a long keel yacht was a real treat.  Ayvalik town was energetic in contrast to Greece, it was also very much hotter. Our first Turkish meal was at a restaurant on the old customs pier, entertained by a waiter who bizarrely caught a pigeon and took it to show the customers. Looking back, we were lucky to experience the friendliness of the Northern Turkish ports, as yet unaffected by the tourist trade, before we got to Southern Turkey, the ‘Turquoise Coast’ and the pestering of the touts.                                            Some Turkish words are a surprise 

Down the coast and Bademli Limani was a remote anchorage between two green-topped rocky islands with the clearest water. We visited a hamam by dinghy at sunset recommended in Rod Heikell's pilot, and bathed in rock pools with natural hot springs, joined by Turkish campers. One elderly lady, dressed in traditional floral patterned headwear, long-sleeved blouse and pantaloons, was bathing her feet, her granddaughter next to her, washing clothes, ‘welcome to Turkey’, she said, her granddaughter translating. Next day, we took the dinghy across a shallow sand bar to a small harbour and bought fresh fish. A 2 km walk past olive groves took us into the village of Bademli, stopping for coffee and water at a restaurant – no charge. The village was tiny, one street full of café’s serving tea, (the equivalent of the golf course for making business contacts, but no women around). We sampled non-alcoholic cordial made from grapes, and the bar owner showed us his hand-drawn map of the islands, complete with leaping dolphins and a submarine; ‘…you are on a yacht, I can tell by your colour’. Peppers and aubergines were for sale in a little shop no more than a hovel, and the elderly man insisted he gave us them when we had no change. We bought bread straight from the oven, passed through the baker’s window and wrapped in ….newspaper. At midday the mosque was overflowing and carpets were spread in the street. As we left, we tried to find the old man and give him some change, but his chair was empty and his door was locked. We left coins on his chair with the feeling that they would still be there when he got back from the mosque, and also that he would know who they were from.

South to to Eski Foca, accompanied by dolphins surfing on Yanina’s bow wave - two sheltered harbours and a town in-between, full of Turkish holidaymakers. It was lively and colourful by day with cobbled streets, café’s, a castle, and a harbour full of fishing boats and lined with restaurants where again we were given coffee – no charge. An old Hamam was a bicycle repair shop, the castle housed an open air theatre. In the heat of the day, walking near the castle, a man produced two plastic cups and shared his soft drink with us, at the deli, Liz was invited to stick her finger in the pot of tsatsiki to taste it. Holidaymakers stopped us just to chat and practice their English, or in the hot afternoons, they were immersed in the water chatting in groups. At night, long tables lined the pavements, the drinks on the table mostly cola or water and there were illuminations overhead. It was crowded but friendly, and there was a music festival on. We were fascinated by the Turkish instruments and new sounds - where did they get all those notes from? A ‘klarnet’ that looked the same as a western clarinet but sounded totally different. Two days, then we left to go down the coast, no wind, then wind on the nose with lumpy seas, can’t sail either way. Two nights of anchorages which turned out to be full of fish farms and unsheltered in the unusual southerly winds, or full of wasps, or have we been spoilt.

Sigacik next, was the only safe port in a long stretch of coastline. A marina for the yachtsmen brings visitors here but it is shabby, water from a hose lying on the lawn, electricity from an extension lead upside down on the bridge, and the one shower was dilapidated. The surrounding flat landscape looked like an airstrip with an infra-structure of roads, pavements and  a few buildings, as if great plans had been made but the sums didn’t add up. Then by contrast, there was pretty fishing harbour and ‘Jacques le Marseillais’ seafood restaurant, the walls covered in pebbles, and the best meal for months; an ancient walled town that housed the locals, shopping was from roadside stalls; waiters crossed the roads with tea; and the people were lovely. We were invited to take tea, and the marina manager brought Liz flowers from his garden, we will remember the welcome here. Rumour has it that the Setur marina group have bought it and then it will change and facilities will improve, but it will lose it’s individuality.


Kudadasi was the easiest marina berth ever – opposite the entrance. There were still few English here, but Kudadasi is a cruise ship stop for Ephesus and we encountered our first tourist bazaar where we stood out and were targeted - leather, carpets jewellery, watches, T-shirts, how can I take your money’? We had haircuts - Bob’s was quite an experience and included eyebrow, nose and ear hair trim and ear cleaning, the final flourish being a small brand dipped in meths, then lit and bashed against his ears. We hired a car to Ephesus and were hijacked in the lower car park with a ‘free government shuttle’ to the upper car park which stopped off at a carpet factory on the way, but we saw how a single silk thread is unravelled from the cocoon and we watched carpets being woven. The rest of the day was spent driving through the Turkish countryside through a green valley between the mountains. There were huge fields of crops being worked by hand, the workers in traditional dress. We passed painted lorries full of fruit and women pickers, women carrying straw loads on their backs. Tractors were everywhere on the roads, often carrying the whole family, and parked in the drives of smallholdings where the cattle still lived in part of the house - the equivalent of the 4 wheel drive? On the roadsides and in the fields were straw shelters, some lived in. It was hot and the workers went under the shelters in the afternoon and back out in the evening. It was too much for the car's air-con, then we spotted tall showers running outside the filling stations and a truck sitting underneath one, cooling down, so we did too. Tire was a village where the gypsies bring their goods to sell. In the square, the tea drinkers were managing the heat, reading papers and playing backgammon. In the covered backstreets there were tiny one room businesses – the watermelon seller, the purse-maker, the tailor, often they were in streets – ‘the street of plastic hoses’. Birigi was another old Turkish village with timber frame houses. The Aegean house there had closed, but the gatekeeper volunteered to let us in and proceeded to give us a tour of the building with absolutely no English - he mimed everything. At the end he said ‘Baksheesh’, but he had earned it.


Next day we sailed through the Samos channel and sneaked round to the Greek island of Gaidaros and suddenly we had 28 knots of gusty wind ahead. It was a culture shock after Turkey in many ways, including a row of noisy charter boats, but their laughter was infectious. A gusty downwind sail took us back over to Turkey but we found it hard going with a big swell. We had long discussions about swapping sails, renewing lines, replacing old pulleys, more cleats, more winches, how to make a Morris Minor into a Ferrari? Our destination, ‘Paradise Bay’ Kazekli Limani, Gulluck Korfezi, sounded like a postal address, and it almost lived up to it’s nickname. The semi-circular cove had a small beach at the head, fringed by pine trees. The first night we had it all to ourselves apart from the fishermen, stopping to mend their nets, then it became very hot next day, 40C and we had to hide from the midday sun like the locals.

At the head of the gulf, Asin was a small harbour and a poor village, but with the ruins of ancient Iassos amongst olive trees peopled by goats, donkeys and sheep, and at the harbour entrance, the excitement of negotiating a sunken jetty. It was uncomfortably hot and the Meltemi curved into the harbour kicking up nasty seas - this was the wind pattern for most of the gulfs where the Meltemi blew strongly from the west in the afternoon - fine if that’s the direction you’re going in, but otherwise, set off early. Heading out, we had big winds and seas by the end of the gulf and a brief exciting sail until turning the corner when everything became worse and we diverted into the gulf of Yalikayvik. Fantastic – a new marina with extensive grounds, keen to be a cultural centre with it’s own amphitheatre, art exhibitions and another live music festival. We stayed 4 nights and felt we were on holiday. The Meltemi blew strongly every afternoon - okay for 2 weeks maybe, but after 2 months we were tired.

 Kalymnos island was a lesson in never going back. 15 years ago while backpacking, we spent a few very pleasant days there. Back then, locals would meet the ferry and hold up photos of their rooms for rent. We were taken in hand by Themos, who had a more subtle approach, offering us coffee at his taverna first, before showing us the rooms he had to rent . His hospitality extended beyond that though when he joined us every night after our meal with a bottle of wine on the house and his little dog danced to the island music and at the end, he and his brother came to the ferry to say goodbye - little things, but they made our stay memorable. Back to the present day and we came into an ugly harbour that we didn’t recognize. Our first problem was when the anchor didn’t set. Then, where was Themo’s taverna? - there seemed to be about 50 to choose from. An hours walk in the stifling heat and two cold drinks and we still can’t find that corner where it used to be. Back at the quay an angry port policeman asked us to move Yanina, at the same time he wanted to know where we’ve been  ‘…have we come from Turkey’? Fortunately there was a yacht waiting and we cast off hastily and out into the teeth of the afternoon Meltemi.  30k headwinds all round the coast to Vathi harbour and we were blasted with salty spray. Once inside, Vathi was a tiny but totally sheltered cove. Half an hour later we were swimming, and later we treated ourselves to a goat stew and laughed. We philosophised into the night about life and Ataturk with our neighbour, a Turkish investment banker.

Across the channel to Bodrum town, another lumpy sea with not much sailing. Then to Kukuk deep into the gulf, a complete contrast with an isolated and sheltered anchorage, surrounded by pine trees. Back out of the gulf to Knidos with an early start before the Meltemi, then round the headland where we anchored in a spectacular natural harbour, surrounded by the amphitheatre and ruins of ancient Knidos. Most of this area has only been accessible from the sea until recently, and locals depend on the yachting trade. Knidos was unspoilt with one pension and restaurant, but the signs of change were there – a pontoon where they charged, or expected you to eat at the restaurant, a guy with a whistle, trying to get you in there. Dacta next day, was a small village with two anchorages, one with a guy with a whistle – we went to the other one, every other shop advertised ‘Yacht Services’. Keki Buku was at the head this gulf, a very long, a fantastic downwind sail, but will we get out? A beautiful spot, a huge, pine forested bay with anchorages behind an island with ruins on top. The head of the bay had small shop and two restaurants with pontoons, and Marti marina was discreetly located on the other side.

 Knidos harbour                                                                                          Keki Buku


We were talking to Simon and Orit on their catamaran when there was a gale warning on the Turkish Navtext. Do we stay or do we go? Headwinds as usual at the top of the gulf, then a downwind sail to an anchorage outside Bozborun. A word here about anchoring and taking a line ashore in a boat that doesn’t steer in reverse – very tricky. We put the bow anchor out, do our best to reverse, then pull the boat round with the dinghy and a line from the stern, which we then row back to the shore, - fine in an un-crowded anchorage with light or no wind. This anchorage was very deep, very crowded, and the wind was rising. After an hour we had created a hammock of 50 metres of chain out at the bow and 50 metres of rope out at the stern, Yanina in the middle and the wind on the beam..… a Bavaria has anchored in 5 minutes. We hauled it all in with great difficulty and got ready to go as the wind was now 25k, but so did the Bavaria which for some reason then sent a swimmer out. Suddenly, there was a woman overboard in front of us, getting tired in a wild sea and trying to clamber onto a bucking bathing platform at the Bavaria’s stern. Someone threw a rope and she managed to grasp it and was hauled onboard. We then found a bay not in the pilot, but Paul and Leslie on their motor yacht ‘come here all the time’ - they’ve been sailing in Turkey for seventeen years. The wind blew all night, all the next day, all night, but we were sheltered and swam, walked ashore on an ancient marble path to a biblical valley. It was scorching hot, Bozborun harbour was a lee shore with a dangerous chop, but we risked it to see the traditional gullets geing made there.

The last sail was round to Marmaris, our water tanks were smelling rather unpleasantly and we needed to get to somewhere where we could clean them out. Marmaris marina has excellent facilities and is very reasonably priced and has a big liveaboard community in the winter, although it can be stormy and rains a lot. We spent a very sociable few weeks with Ken and Alicia on one side of us, Colin and Jean on the other, Mambo and Suna turned up and we booked Yanina in for a seven months stay and a haul-out. We took all the tanks out and cleaned them and swapped the mainsail. On reviewing the deck systems we discovered that all the running rigging was two sizes too big for the blocks – no wonder it was hard work - all this time it was still very hot and difficult to do anything strenuous after 11am.     

  Waterfalls at Pamukkale                                                                                  Cappadocia Anatolia

 We planned one last sailing trip along the south coast and some inland trips and booked our flights home. We visited Dalyan and the rock tombs and met up with Lynne and Shay, took an overnight bus to the Cappadocia region near Anatolia and saw the amazing rock formations where Star Wars was filmed and we visited the Pamakkale waterfalls, Western Turkey has a surprisingly modern infrastructure of roads and out-of-town hypermarkets and the long distance buses are a good way to travel. The time we had left to lift out was getting less and less and the weather was changing - we decided we weren’t doing anymore sailing this year.

  Rock Tombs at Caunos


We finally took the overnight bus to Istanbul and laid the ghost with a Bosphorus tour, and a visit to the Dardinelles and … there was a strong wind and current from te NE all the time, ironically it cost us about the same as the diesel for 200 miles of motoring in Yanina.

  Blue Mosque and Whirling Dervish in Istanbul 

We have enjoyed the contrast of beautiful anchorages and interesting ports this year, but not the sailing, it’s been a struggle a lot of the time. A lot of yachties are more or less based in eastern Mediterranean. Some live on board all the time, some move onto land in the winter when the weather is wet and bad for sailing, or July and August, when it is too hot and the Meltemi is blowing. A sensible way to manage the Aegean, but we’ve had enough of it already. Our plans anyway are to head back west and out of the Mediterranean next year.                          

Spice Bazaar Istanbul                             Gallipoli Dardinelles