Whilst writing these last couple of blogs I've been referring back to our ship's log to make sure I get the sequence of places we stopped at in the correct order and it's given me a great perspective on exactly what Aannsha and I have achieved in a relatively short time frame.
In 25 days of travel time we have crossed the Mediterranean Sea from west to east, visited 4 countries, navigated the Bonifacio Strait, the Messina Strait and the Corinth Canal, stopped off at 9 Greek islands and we're now in Turkey. For a couple of new sailors who'd never even set foot on a yacht before February 2018 I think we've achieved quite a lot.
What you see is what you get
After 3 nights and 2 days in the harbour at Ios, one of Greece's more popular backpacker destinations, we untied the lines to continue our journey. The next stop was Astypalaia 10 hours to the east. The day began with calm seas, no wind and plenty of sunshine, however around about lunchtime the wind did pick up slightly which allowed us to unfurl the head sail and add an extra knot of speed.
Arriving into the well hidden and fairly large bay at 5.15pm, Mike came on the radio and directed us to what at first glance appeared to be nothing but a fisherman's house. Closer inspection revealed that there was indeed a small concrete dock and a large terrace extension to the house. Our buddy boat tied up side on at the small dock and we came alongside and rafted to them and just as we were securing our last line, a catamaran came into the bay and we helped them raft up alongside us.
Stepping onto the dock I was greeted by several cats and the sound of the fisherman tenderising his catch of octopus, squid and several fish. I went out on a limb and guessed those were tonight's menu choices. Now that I was on dry land I took a good look at our surroundings. Next to the fisherman's house there were a couple of concrete shells that were either unfinished houses or places for storage. The low hills were mostly barren except for a few scrub like bushes and quite a few goats, some of which I could see, while others were just the sound of the bells around their necks jangling in the distance. It was idyllic. This was the kind of overnight stopping place I'd been dreaming about. No marina fees, no stress of stern-to mooring or other boat anchors snagging your anchor chain, just what you see is what you get. Simple, welcoming and unpretentious.
Walking up the steps into the house/restaurant/bar we were greeted by the fisherman's wife and other family members. We were shown where the fridge with the beer was and told to help ourselves. Next to the fridge was a bottle opener and a baked clay bowl, bottle tops were put in there and counted at the end of the night to add to your bill.
Dinner was also simple and fresh, lots of Greek salad, fresh octopus, calamari and grilled fish washed down with plenty of cold beer and local wine. As I mentioned earlier apart from our two boats the only other vessel was a catamaran and at the end of our meal Sven the captain invited us on board to sample a bottle of Estonia's national drink, a kind of rum but with a lot more flavours in there. It turns out that Sven in his younger years had twice been a member of the Estonian Olympic yachting team. It's fascinating who you encounter in small faraway places.
Beating into the wind
Tuesday morning we were up bright and breezy for an 8.30am departure and whilst it was still flat calm inside the protected bay, I noted that the wind had picked up overnight and was blowing from the north at 20 knots and that meant that we'd have to bash straight into it for the best part of an hour until we reached the northern tip of the island and could then turn to the east. It was quite a slog and the waves were fairly big as they'd had almost the whole of the Aegean Sea to build before being channelled into the shallower waters of the bay. We thought we were doing okay until the bow of A B Sea rose steeply up one wave and then plunged down into the trough only to be met by a very big wave. It was so big that it brought us nearly to a standstill as the water washed completely over the foredecks and into the cockpit, that was the moment that we lost the red lens cover for our port navigation light. Luckily we didn't have any night sails planned for the near future.
Once out of the bay and heading east we unfurled the headsail to take advantage of the 20 knots of wind and with our engine turned off A B Sea became part of the motion of the sea and we had a very comfortable sail across to the island of Nisyros, arriving at 3.30pm.
Mooring at Nisyros is of the stern-to variety and although the wind had dropped from the earlier 20 knots I still had a few wobbly moments where my steering backwards was a bit off and I had to wait a couple of times for the wind to point me in the right direction. Eventually we got A B Sea safely tied up and went ashore to have a wander around. There are the usual things you see in Greek harbours, several bars, restaurants, mini supermarkets, fuel and water trucks and plenty of scooters.
Leaving at the late hour of 10.00am the following day felt like a luxury, but we could afford this one as our next stop at Symi was only 4.5 hours away. Our overnight stop this time was in a small bay at the south of the island called Panormitis which is dominated by a beautiful monastery and here we dropped anchor in the northern section of the bay and stayed on board to write our blogs and edit our video for that week.
Symi was also our check out and exit point from Greece and Europe, but we had to sail 2.5 hours up to Symi town on the north eastern side of the island to complete the official paperwork. First stop was the port police for checking crew lists and passports. That took only 10 minutes, then armed with all the other ships documents the two captains, Phil and I, had to walk 15 minutes around to the opposite side of the big harbour to check our boats out with the coast guard. My DEKPA, insurance and vessel registration were checked and stamped and I was done in 5 minutes. Phil however had the name of his vessel missing from his insurance document and there proceeded to be 2 hours of him making phone calls to his insurer in Croatia and documents going backwards and forwards. Eventually the documents were all correct and with great relief we walked the 15 minutes back to our boats, untied the lines and set our course for Turkey.