The peaceful anchorage at the southern end of the Greek island of Lipsi is obviously well known for the protection it provides from the wind, because the day after we arrived it got very busy with lots of yachts and gulets coming in and dropping anchor.
Then a couple of days later, on Tuesday the 18th of June 2019, everyone decided to leave and that included us.
Lipsi town had given us a temporary solution to our Internet data problem, but the quest was by no means completed. It was time to move 10 nautical miles further south and slightly east to the island of Leros where we had a better chance of obtaining the data sim card we were searching for.
Not enough wind
As we left the Lipsi anchorage we hopefully unfurled the head sail but it wasn't too long before we furled it away, there just wasn't enough wind to make it useful.
That did of course mean that the sea was fairly flat which meant that we could put our Gori folding prop into overdrive mode and get some good speed at fairly low engine revs. At 7 knots of speed we completed the trip in an hour and forty five minutes, dropping our anchor in Alindas Bay by 12.15pm.
Taking our dinghy ashore to the main part of town we asked around and were informed that we'd need to head up the hill to the old town to find anywhere that sold data sim cards. In the Greek islands we're beginning to realise that everything you need or want usually involves an uphill climb.
We spent 30 minutes walking to the old part of town and after talking to more locals we discovered that there used to be a shop that sold Cosmote sim cards but it had closed down a while ago. Nobody knew where we could buy a data sim.
At this point I was feeling as though we were going to fail in this quest, but my little inner voice had other ideas. It said "Why don't you walk a little further out of town on that road and see if there's anything that way?" Who am I to argue with my little inner voice!
As we walked along the roadside, there was no pedestrian pavement, the shops got fewer and farther between and it began to look like a lost cause. I decided that we'd just walk around the next bend and if there wasn't anything in sight we'd turn back. Rounding the bend I happily saw a shop front that looked like it had great potential and as we got closer I could see that it was indeed a computer store.
As there were a few people already queued up inside, Aannsha decided to wait outside and sat down in the shade on some steps as I gratefully stepped into the partially air conditioned interior. My turn at the counter eventually came and the guy spoke fairly good English and knew exactly what I wanted.
Twenty minutes later I stepped outside, with a big cheesy grin on my face, and declared to Aannsha that we'd had a win! I'd just bought 30GB of data for 25 Euros (AU$40.55). The data lifespan was 3 months, but we'd easily chew through that 30GB in about a month, and we could buy more data at most Greek islands because the company Wind was fairly common and popular.
Feeling good about our win we retraced our steps back into the centre of the old town and sat down at a bakery with tables and chairs outside, where we could watch the world go by. I had a cold beer and Aannsha had a coffee, with which we drank a toast to Internet data sim card mission completed.
The hike further uphill to the castle
Our mission for Internet data had taken us almost halfway up the hill to the medieval castle which sits dauntingly above the old town. So we decided that as we were nearly there we should walk the rest of the way and go take a look.
Following our noses and heading in a general uphill direction we found ourselves in the usual narrow and brightly white painted alleyways that we've found in every Greek island that we've visited so far. Of course we eventually came to a 4-way junction with buildings all around us blocking our view as to which way lead to the castle.
Looking to our left we saw a wizened old Greek guy, sat in the shade, peeling the skin from an apple with his pocket knife. We nodded and smiled at each other and without a word being said he nodded his head in the direction of one of the alleyways and we instantly knew that he'd witnessed thousands of tourists, just like us, coming through the maze of back streets trying to get to the castle.
We followed his head nod and a few minutes later we were out of the alleys and climbing the broad steps around the exposed hillside that would eventually lead us to Pandeli Castle.
George knows a lot of stuff
Pandeli Castle opening hours are a bit hit and miss in the off season. So if you're visiting Leros in the quieter months it's probably best to ask in town if the castle is open or not before you make the long climb up the hill. Entrance to view the castle is free, but if you want to see inside the chapel and the museum the fee is 2 Euros (AU$3.20) per person.
The chapel is lovely and has some stunning artefacts inside. The museum holds many ancient treasures. The treasure we found to be most interesting was George the museum curator. He is a wealth of knowledge and we certainly learnt a few things as we listened to him talk about the various religious icons on display. You can tell that he is very passionate about Greece, it's history, the culture, the island of Leros and the castle.
After visiting George in the museum we meandered around the castle walls, the views are amazing as the castle commands a position where you can see from one side of the island to the other. Any enemy ships coming into the bays would be easily spotted and destroyed by cannon fire.
The Meltemi is coming
Watching the wind and weather forecasts is something we do on a daily basis and we noticed that the infamous Meltemi wind, which blows and sometimes howls down from the north of the Aegean sea, was going to get a bit boisterous in the next few days. Further west it was a bit calmer and luckily that was the direction we wanted to go.
After 3 nights in Leros we upped anchor and pointed the nose of A B Sea towards the small island of Levitha some 28 nautical miles to the west. Our plan was to anchor in a well protected bay on the south coast.
On this 7 hour trip the wind was pretty good and we managed to get some fairly good sailing done with both sails out and reefed.
When we eventually rounded the corner, into the bay we hoped to anchor at, we were amazed to see at least half a dozen other yachts already there and seemingly anchored very close to each other. A quick look through the binoculars revealed that they were in fact all tied up to mooring balls. We hadn't expected that and weren’t prepared.
A mooring line was dug out of the locker and a boat hook was readied. Just on the edge of the mooring field was the only remaining available mooring ball. This time there was no Turkish guy called John to take the line and help us tie off, we were on our own and we hadn't done this manoeuvre for a long time.
Grabbing a mooring ball involves aiming the bow of A B Sea at the selected ball. The ball is just slightly off centre to the starboard side so that I, at the helm, can see it. Meanwhile Aannsha is at the bow with a line attached to the starboard cleat ready to pass through the eye of the mooring ball once she's hooked the ball with the boat hook.
The key to the whole manoeuvre is bringing A B Sea to a dead stop as the mooring ball disappears from my sight and in a position where Aannsha can hook it. In perfect conditions it's easily done. However even inside the protection of the bay the wind was still gusting to 25 knots and bringing 9.6 tonnes of boat to a standstill requires slow speed which then puts us at the mercy of the wind gusts. With all that being said it took us three goes to actually get tied off to the mooring.
The mooring field is supplied and maintained by the one family that lives on the island. They fish in the local waters and raise goats, sheep and chickens on the land. Their livelihood is supplemented in the warmer months by visiting yachts using their mooring balls at 7 Euros (AU$11) per night and the crews eating and drinking at the outdoor dining area which is part of their large sprawling family compound.
Close hauled to Amorgos
The following day we left Levitha quite early for our 35 nautical mile trip west to the island of Amorgos. The wind which had been predicted to come from the north obviously hadn't seen that prediction and instead chose to come from the north west which meant that we were close hauled with both sails reefed for the whole trip.
Arriving at the northern part of Amorgos we were greeted by towering cliffs and we needed to round the western most corner of those cliffs before we turned to port to sail down the western side of the island.
Sailing close hauled means having the sails set for sailing as nearly against the wind as the vessel will go. If I tried to point the nose of A B Sea any closer to the direction the wind was coming from, climbing too high, we lost the wind, the sails flapped uselessly and we lost forward momentum. As we got closer to the western corner of the cliffs it became apparent that we weren't going to be able to sail around the corner and if we kept going we'd end up crashing into the cliff.
Purist sailors would have tacked a couple of times to move away from the cliffs and go around the corner. But we're not purists and we'd fought long and hard to get as far as we had, so the idea of tacking and actually going back along our route was not enticing. We turned on the engine, put the sails away and motored around the corner. Once we were on the west side of Amorgos the wind lessened and became fitful so we motor sailed the last couple of hours until we finally dropped anchor next to several other yachts in Katapola Bay. We ended up staying in Amorgos for 11 days and I'll tell you what we got up to in next week's blog.
To watch the video that accompanies this blog click here.