On the nose


Newsletters 2007

Heading west, Turkey to Spain

Simi island, the Dodecanese

12th June 2007

Simi town

It hasn’t felt like newsletter time till now since our focus has been diverted this winter by working to top up our cruising funds, but now we are sailing again, and here’s where we’re up to.


We went back to England to live in our house from October to February and caught up with friends and relatives, decided not to sell our house after all, and generally panicked at the way we were getting sucked back into owning a car and paying bills. We went to Budapest to visit a furniture manufacturer with DFE in January, and took on some design projects as a result; and we project managed a loft conversion, new bathroom, tiled floors etc. at Mike’s house and helped Jenny re-model her kitchen. We were still working at 3am, flying out at 8am, on the day of our return to Turkey.


When we got back to Yanina, there were a lot of boat jobs to do whilst living in the boatyard (12 foot ladder, night bucket etc). At one point it got very confusing when we had half fitted the Hydrovane to check the critical dimensions, had a metal gantry made but not finally fitted, and started painting the topsides before fitting the vane, and it then rained and went down holes we'd drilled in the deck. We have also had a new genoa, sprayhood and cockpit table made and varnished all the wood at least six times, all worth it, the pain is forgotten now and Yanina is so smart.


Marmaris Yacht marina is a comfortable and very handy place to work, with a huge boatyard and facilities and cheap restaurant and swimming pool at the head of a beautiful big and sheltered bay - it's hard to get away, and people stay for years. It’s wasn’t all work though, the sun shone most days, there were barbeques and social events, and Bob joined the band. We met up with people we knew from Almerimar, or have met along the way - Doreen and Alan on Kiah, Jan and Max on Mambo, Ian and Heather on Blackfoot Warrior, Dot and Terry on Reality, and then Lisa and Roger, who Liz had sailed with across the Atlantic turned up to Skipper a 60 foot yacht, it really is a small world. The marina had Wifi but it was in a bad state that most people gave up trying to use it to preserve their sanity. - apologies to all our Skype contacts.


 Everybody told us not to miss the south coast of Turkey, so although we planned to go west back across the Aegean, we did take time in May to head east to Fethiye Korfezi and as far as the Kekova Roadstead and back, and we were really glad we had done so. Fethiye bay is huge and sheltered and the winds gave us good sailing in flat waters, which we needed like a tonic after the Aegean. The bay has numerous idyllic anchorages, often with ruins to explore, and when you’ve had enough peace and quiet, Fethiye village is pretty, mildly touristy, and a contrast; but Kekova roads will stay in our memories. These sheltered bays were created by an ancient earthquake that have left an intriguing collection of sunken cities. Two villages exist today, as yet unspoilt by tourism, with friendly locals offering simple handmade goods for sale. The whole area is beautiful and if there is one thing we will remember about Turkey, it is the lovely people everywhere we went.


 Sunken city, Kekova                                                                           Goatherd, Kekova



We are currently in Simi, a Greek island just off the Turkish coast. It will be hard work initially crossing Aegean as there will be headwinds from the west and north west and we are not looking forward to it. The Aegean islands are so interesting, each with their individual identities, and Simi is as delightful as it was 16 years ago when we came here backpacking, but the pleasure is tempered by the Meltemi winds and the hard sailing. A ferry is looking like the favourite way to see them right now.


We are however very pleased with the improvements we have made to assist Yanina’s sailing performance (or ours as crew). Yanina is a sturdy and safe long keel boat but she has struggled with the fickle winds, the short sharp seas, with marina berthing and taking long lines ashore (anything involving reversing) and many other things mediterranean. We have renewed the running rigging with smaller lines, the new genoa  and the smaller main (that we foolishly took off in Portugal), help us handle the wind shifts so much better, and the new sprayhood and bimini keep us dry or cool, whichever we need and all these things combined have helped us sail her so much more confidently here. We could be in danger of creating a mediterranean boat, just as we are leaving, but we also have the hydrovane steering to try out in preparation for ocean sailing.


Sadly, we sold our bikes, but it did save a lot of space and weight...


To Crete, then we’ll probably stop at Malta again, maybe Tunisia, then back to Spain, and we’ll take it from there; no plans or promises yet, we’ll see how we get on.

Heading west- from Simi to the Balearics

June to August 2007


Since Turkey we have had a lot of changes of plan and delays. We set off across the Aegean, aiming to do longish hops –  to practise for crossing the Atlantic, and also to try out the Hydrovane wind self-steering system; but aiming directly for Crete, we were headed with westerly winds so we island-hopped instead and went up through the Corinth canal to the Ionian sea to get a better angle to sail. The wind then died in a big heat wave and we have motored more than we have sailed on our long passages to Malta, Tunisia, and then to Menorca - this is mediterranean sailing.


 We were in Nidri, Lefkas and set off for Malta but turned back as the autopilot self-steering (useful when motoring) stopped working so spent two weeks unplanned, mostly on the wall at Lefkas while Olivier, the electrician, lost some parts and we sent off to England for some more and Bob ended up fixing it all anyway. Our autohelm is 30 years old and après Olivier, Bob had the desultory help of Mario who ran an electronics shop and wanted to sell us a new one – ‘I used to know an expert on these but he’s probably dead now’. On reaching Malta, the engine exhaust pipes were looking a bit ragged with all the motoring and the engine hours were racking up so we waited in vain for Vince the mechanic and Bob replaced the pipes, doing a complete engine service, well done Bob.


It has been nostalgic re-visiting places on our return journey, and we’ve experienced the same mixed sensations of familiarity and change as we do returning to the UK. As well as re-visiting old haunts, we have seen many fabulous new places too.


For the sailors interested in our route across the Aegean, we went north from Marmaris to Simi and Kos Islands, west to Astapalia and Santorini, north to Ios, then west again to Milos and finally a long hop to Porto Heli on the Peloponese. Much of the route across the Aegean was based on the pilot’s description of winds and seas in different areas and avoiding the bad ones, and was also proved by Jan and Max on Mambo who tried it a month earlier, and Alan and Doreen on Kiah who were ahead of us.


  Simi town

Highlights of the summer - We anchored on the south of Simi Island in a bay with a monastery and a culture shock as the sound of the Greek bell replaced the call of the Turkish Muezzin. Sipping a beer at the taverna at sunset we watched a cigar-shaped Meltemi cloud form and the wind then blew hard from the direction we wanted to go for the next two days, so we got a bus round to the main port which was as pretty as when we went there 17 years ago.




Astapalia Island had a beautiful deserted bay, with two tavernas and a couple of shops, and we wondered how long it would take for this attractive spot to be discovered and touristified.


On Santorini (Thira), blasted in the centre by a volcanic eruption and filled by the sea, there are few places to moor a yacht inside the caldera and they are all precarious, but there is now a ‘marina’ (well -Greek EU funded, unfinished concrete harbour) on the south coast. It’s 17 years since we were here too, and the roads are now lined with Euro-style holiday complexes, but improved road surfaces and the kids still bike around in swimming clothes but now on quad bikes. Ia and Thira towns were spectacular, clinging to the edge of the crater with cave dwellings spilling over the edge and a sheer drop to the sea. Ia was very smart with a paying car park and attendant - ‘tourism is good for us’ -and marble paths and steps between the dwellings on the edge of the crater, music always just around the corner and shops selling scented soap and candles. We were admiring a sail awning over a cave house, when Peter, the English owner invited us to see inside his holiday home. Back in Thira to eat a meal at sunset at the crater’s edge, and returning to the port, we peeked in at a huge Greek wedding feast being held in the old tuna canning factory. The next day we sailed through the Caldera and saw the same sights from the sea.

The caldera at sunset

 Approaching Milos Island in the afternoon we experienced howling katabatic winds which sent spray across the water and obscured our vision (it’s mentioned in the pilot). We had to approach by using GPS and computer and pass between two rocks into a bay and a surreal landscape of white rock and turquoise sea, but safe waters.


Then at last the sight of the green and low hills of the Greek mainland was a welcome contrast to the barren rocky Cyclades Islands. At Porto Heli on the Peloponese we anchored off the town for two nights with Ian and Sue on Pulsar 2. It was very hot and still, a total contrast from last year when we sat in a gale for two nights.


We moored outside a taverna in the cute bay of Korfos to be early for the Corinth canal – ‘free mooring, water electricity and shower’ (a vertical pipe in the road with a rose at the end), then an expensive meal. The next morning found us at the entrance to the canal at 9am, conducting business with the port official on the steps to his office that was being painted – ‘sorry, cash only, I can’t find the credit card machine’. At 125 euros it was a most expensive mile of canal but it was an unforgettable experience pelting through this narrow trench cut through the  rock with bridges miles above us and steep sheer walls and with full engine revs, a fresh headwind, water sloshing from side to side, pursued by a huge freighter.






Corinth Canal



The pilot book talks about regular strong winds in the Gulf of Corinth but we were greeted with the same glassy sea we’d seen everywhere in this heat wave. Until a nice sail to windward began - but not for long as the wind increased to 30 knots and we were getting nowhere. We gave up tacking and screeched into the anchorage on Trizonia Island where the wind continued for the two days we were there, and when we left, it died abruptly, at the other side – very strange.


More spectacular sights with the medieval harbour at Navpaktos, and the new bridge across the gulf of Patros – will we fit under? the channel to Mesalongi with stilt houses, then a long day motoring in the still glassy sea to Nidri on Levkas where really our sunny sailing began 10 years ago and a re-union with Allan Gauchi of Sunvil Holidays. Vliho bay was full of English boats with owners ‘of a certain age’ (ours), – there’s even an English bar. In fact, throughout the Ionian we met up with many people we knew.


Three days mainly motoring took us to Malta with Kiah in another glassy sea with lots of turtles - what is the collective noun? At night there was moonlight, followed by a show of ‘special effects’ as the milky way reflected in the calm water and phosphorescence glowed in Yanina’s bow wave. Returning to Malta in the summer was fun with the Maltese people in holiday mood, endless fireworks echoing off the buildings of Valletta, and the same butcher in Gala who looked like Rodney Bewes, and it was very hot.


Seen in Malta, nice to have a little  runabout on board 


We met up with Roger and Lisa on Kimosabi in an anchorage, for a sunset picnic, then Bob’s nephew Ian and family Lucy, Bob and Fred, on holiday, parking Yanina right outside their hotel and taking them for a sail.

                                                    Sidi Bou Said




 Fred approaching Valletta


A two night crossing to Tunisia gave us a bit of wind, but when we rounded Cap Bon, the bay of Tunis, which is 40 miles across, turned out to average only 40 metres in depth and when the 25 knot wind did it’s usual thing of heading us, the swell became over 2 metres - for eight long hours, it didn’t calm down till right outside the marina of Sidi Bou Said. The marina here doesn’t really cater for tourists and we had mixed reports about the facilities but we liked it. True, there’s only a little shop and the old town, a long walk up the hill, doesn’t really have any either; you need to get a key for the showers and toilets because the others are unmentionable and there isn’t much information about trips and tours; but we mixed with local Tunisians and fishermen, and the very pretty town had a very good art exhibition by a local artist and there was a train to Tunis.

                                            Preparing a fish supper



We enjoyed Tunisia very much, the highlight being a 3 day trip into the Sahara desert in a 4x4 with Txaber, Francesco and Andreah, visiting an oasis and of course, including a camel ride. The temperature on the coast was cooler than Malta, but in the desert it was 49 degrees.













                         Choosing music CDs in Tunisia



 International talks in the desert





 An after-dinner smoke

                                                     Sunset in the desert













On our three night trip to Menorca with lumpy seas and strange skies, an open wooden boat came into view containing at least a dozen men. They came up alongside, bizarrely asking us the direction and distance to Sardinia (we were 30 miles south). They then said they were low on fuel and succeeded in scraping Yanina, at which point they took off at speed. We were very worried about them (and the scratch) – there are a lot of messages on the Navtex about people who get washed overboard from these boats; but on talking to other yachts in the anchorage in Mahon, they spoke of similar experiences and were of the opinion they were ‘trying it on’.


We didn’t stay in Mahon long. The whole of the Balearics is having bad weather with gales, rain and thunder from the Golf du Lion – the western med’s version of the Meltemi; and we are moving on when we can.

Almerimar, Spain (again)

December 20th 2007


Almerimar is as good as ever - untouristy, relaxed, and the sun shines most days. This last few weeks we have had temperatures in the 20’s. ‘T’ shirts and shorts.


For Christmas the yachties are getting together and cooking a Christmas dinner – 60 people so far. We have a room to hold it in, and everyone is joining forces to organise the logistics of how we all cook food on board/get it there/keep it hot/ electrics/decorations/etc., someone else thankfully is co-ordinating it all. All we know is that we are cooking a turkey, and playing live music – our contribution, and no doubt in the best team spirit, bolstered by a few drinks, it will all happen. There may even be a Christmas swim too.


From Mallorca, we sailed overnight to San Antonio, Ibiza, where we met up with Liz's son Mike. He's the tour manager for the Kaiser chiefs, and also the production manager for Ibiza Rocks.

Check his website at http://www.mdtourservices.com/





 Our visit coincided with the KC's gig in Ibiza Rocks (basically a bar with enough space for a stage and about 900 people) so we had a great time with VIP treatment.







                                                                     Mike and Daniella take the helm

Then we sailed back to Mallorca to meet our friend Joan who is new to sailing. The weather was kind to us (and her) and we had a very pleasant week cruising. 

From there we went straight to Almerimar  where we had planned to stay for the winter. it was a 2 night passage from Palma with thunderstorms on the second night. Caught out with full sail out as downwind backed to 45knot headwind very quickly, we were thankful we have a sturdy long keeler who is very solid in these situations. The thunder and lightning were all around us and there was nothing we could do but put the handheld GPS in the oven and carry on, and we were okay.


We were in Almerimar 3 years ago and enjoyed it. There's a good social life and it happens to be the cheapest marina on the coast! The plan is to get Yanina and ourselves ready for crossing the Atlantic next winter, but to have a look at places like Portugal and Morocco in the summer. There are lots of boat jobs to do and Bob is just finishing version 3 of our book and should have it with the publisher soon. Fingers crossed. 


Thank you to everybody who has emailed us with their news. Wherever you are in the world, it’s great to hear from you, and amazing that we can do so too.