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Aannsha’s Blog #92 - Treasures of Amorgos

Blue Star Ferry

When we arrived at Amorgos island from Leros island in Greece, we saw the anchorage was quite full already so we found a spot towards the outer edge of the herd and dropped anchor. The anchor went in first time and held well.

What do you do when you’re in the way of a big ferry?

You move. Quickly.

We hadn’t been there long when we had a visit from the port police, who told us we were in the path of one of the large ferries and could we please move. Needing to be in water depth that was neither too deep nor too shallow, even if the boat swung with the wind meant the only real place to anchor that was back from the large ferry’s path, was closer to shore. When it came, we realised that it was indeed a Very. Large. Ferry. Glad we moved! But despite its size, the ferry created hardly any wake when it reversed onto the quay. We were impressed with that. And grateful. It’s amazing how even a smallish power boat can kick up a large wake if it’s going (thoughtlessly) fast enough, and that can mean A B Sea ends up rolling like a drunken sailor. Anyway, it was past 5pm at this point and we sat on deck, having a drink, watching the world go by in our new surroundings. This was going to be a relaxing evening.

But wait. At around 6.30pm we spotted another ferry coming straight for us. It was smaller than the first one, but it got a lot closer. So close in fact that we noticed the captain waving … or maybe gesturing something … at us out of his window. Yes, definitely more of a gesture. We were in the way. He managed to manoeuvre around us and docked on the quayside but we weren’t going to be in his way when he left, so we upped anchor and looked for another spot.

Some of the yachts had left the harbour so we did have a better choice of spots to drop the hook again. I was getting extra exercise on anchor duty because the sea bed is made up of a sand/mud mix and when the anchor came up, there was a big wodge of the stuff stuck to the anchor. Fortunately I have a stick for moments such as this and scraped it off, watching it blop back into the water again. We slept well that night knowing we were held fast by the mud in our new anchorage.

We had to move another time because when the wind was forecast to increase to 30 knots gusting up to 40 knots, we wanted to let out all of our anchor chain. But we were too close to another yacht’s anchor buoy and didn’t want to get entangled in that, so we upped anchor once more and found the perfect spot. We were happy. The ferries were happy. And the port police were happy too.

Sunset dinner at Katapola, Amorgos

Making a new snubber

While it was windy, I decided it was a good time to make another snubber – we like redundancy – and also decided to film it to make a tutorial video to put on line. First of all I spliced a loop in one end of the 3-strand snubber line. Then Baz put it through and around the large black rubber snubber that lends itself to a bit of innuendo! After that, I spliced in a metal thimble which would be holding a D-ring that would have a carabiner hook through it, which would be used to clip onto the anchor chain. Once that was done, all that was left was a bit of whipping! I know! More opportunities for innuendos! Whipping in the yachty sense if you didn’t know, is thin string-like twine that you wrap around the areas that you’ve spliced to give it extra stability. I used thin waxed whipping for this job. I may use a slightly thicker whipping if I work on this size rope again as it does separate as I twist it around the line, due to the uneven shape where it has been spliced. I’m thinking a thicker whipping may not do that.

Anyhow, the finished snubber looks great and I’m happy with how it came together. Splicing really isn’t all that difficult once you get your head around how to do the first part; after that it’s just like plaiting. The main thing to remember, apart from sticking the strands in the right places, is to pull each strand tight each time you thread one. It did help that I had a splicing tool for this job. The previous splicing I’d done for a friend who gave me new 8-strand lines to work with for two stern lines was – can I say it here? A bitch. The line was very tightly woven together and was very difficult to splice. So if you’re going to get into splicing I suggest you get yourself a splicing tool, it’ll save you time and swearing.

Snubber tool

Having said that, I had a HUGE sense of achievement when I’d made them. For one, I’d tackled tightly woven line and won! For another, I’d learned how to splice 8-strand line and I had also ended the splicing in a staggered way so it had a much neater finish than if I’d simply cut all 8 strands in the one place. I do enjoy splicing actually, and am very glad I’ve learned this handy skill. Thanks to Mike Jones who got me interested in it on our passage from Spain to Turkey.

We’d spent a few days working – snubbing, videos, blogs – you know, our usual routine and then decided it was time to explore the island. The wind had dropped enough that we could happily leave A B Sea, so we dinghied over to the quay and hired ourselves a 300cc quad bike (ATV). Baz drove (I’m glad he did as he said it was a tad hard to steer) and I filmed from the back. It was a great experience. Right there in nature as the scenery whizzes by, the wind in our hair and the sun on our backs. Fabulous!

Drop-dead gorgeous Chora

I’ve been to a few beautiful Greek villages now, but the Chora on Amorgos was absolutely picture perfect. It has the expected winding streets lined with white-washed buildings and blue doors, but the main street that threads through the middle of the Chora is like a box of exotic Swiss chocolates; every single one is a mouth sensation. Well on this street every single turn opened onto another picturesque vignette filled with visual delights. Some with deep cherry red doors and shutters in the white; some with lime green. Some areas provided cool, dappled shade as grape vines grew suspended on painted wooden rafters across the street. And every now and then there was a waft of Greek cuisine as the tavernas and restaurants opened their doors for lunch. Even the tourist shops were filled with hand-made crafts that tempted me to stop and look.

The best coffee and dakos!

Baz and I stopped for lunch at Jazzmin, an eclectic coffee shop on two levels that also served beer and light refreshments. We headed to the rooftop and sat at the last empty table with a partial view of the surroundings. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and this place reminded me of Sarah’s Unplugged in Maleny, Queensland Australia. And I had my first really good coffee since I’ve arrived in Greece. The last good coffee I had was at Pika in Kaş Turkey, so I was very happy to find Jazzmin. We were waited on by a lovely young woman who spoke great English, and we chose our lunches. Baz had a tasty looking cheese and ham sandwich, while I chose Dakos, a traditional Greek salad made with grated tomatoes, feta, olives, capers, and crispy ‘rusks’. Oh yum. I loved that so much I regularly make it for my lunch on board!

dakos and sandwich

Smallest church in Greece

While we were in the Chora we found the smallest church in Greece. It was tiny and opening the door allowed us to breathe in the gentle aroma of frankincense as we looked at the minute consecrated alter. It was absolutely charming.

All shades of blue

We left the Chora and headed north towards Kalotiri bay, passing goats munching on weeds along the side of the road and ridiculously perched on wafer thin ledges on the roadside cliffs. We parked the ATV at the entrance to the small sandy spit at one end of the bay and walked over to check out the sea state at the entrance to Nikouria Passage.

Kalotiri bay

This is where there is an underwater cave that we were hoping to dive. There was already a dive boat anchored in the vicinity, but when we looked at the water Baz felt there would be too much current to make this viable, given that I’m a novice diver. I know he was disappointed because he’s becoming a bit like a fish out of water. While plunging into the water and snorkelling off A B Sea is one thing, he is getting a tad dry around the gills from lack of scuba diving. There was another dive site on the south of the island that we’d check out later, so we remained hopeful. The colours in the water in Kalotiri bay though were a sight for sore eyes, with blues ranging from deep marine to aqua to turquoise, dusted with white sand and pebbles at its edges.

There was an anchorage in Kalotiri bay in the scoop of the ancient caldera that makes up the small island some metres off shore, and we bookmarked that for a definite visit before we made our way from Amorgos to the next island.

A tiny windmill and a mouth-watering drink

We stopped for an hour at Aegialis Bay, the northern most beach, which has a wider, deeper sandy beach than the one at Katapola. We walked past the sea on our right and beach front cafes to our left that had pairs of sunbeds shaded by individual frames with cotton curtains – all very VIP. At the end of this walk we discovered a tiny windmill perched at the end of the harbour wall and couldn’t resist taking a couple of happy snaps! After that we walked up some steps through a strip of café bars that overlooked the bay. Baz had a cider and I had a juice made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, ginger and mint. It came with extra ice, water and sugar, rather like a twist on a citron pressé that I had in France once. It was a drink guaranteed to make my saliva glands and taste buds wake up the instant I took my first sip! It then proceeded to quench my thirst far better than any beer I could have chosen.

Famous wreck dive site

Refreshed, Baz and I hopped onto the ATV again and headed south to check out two bays: one, a possible anchorage and two, a possible dive site where there’s a wreck that was featured in the movie The Big Blue. The walk down to the bay through a rocky dusty path surrounded by sage green and evergreen shrubs, dotted with lavender coloured flowering bushes was worth visiting the bay, in my opinion. As we descended around the corner, the wreck came into view – all shades of rusty oranges and browns, sitting at an angle in brilliant blue sea. What a photo opportunity.

As we approached however, it became obvious that with the large swell that was coming into the bay, plus the large amount of rubbish on the beach and in the sea around the wreck, it would not prove to be safe for the two of us to dive it. I was almost as disappointed as Baz because I’d been looking forward to this, as much of the wreck is dive-able in the first few metres. Poor Baz was crestfallen though and my heart went out to him big style as he silently accepted yet another non-diving opportunity. The choice of anchorages close by didn’t look too viable either, so it would have been a tad tricky to approach the site from A B Sea.

Monastery suspended from a cliff face

After re-fuelling, which meant driving north with the empty tank fuel sign flashing for most of the trip, we headed down to the Panagia Chozoviotissa, the holy monestary. This is probably the most famous of all the attractions on Amorgos as it was built into a nearly sheer cliff face 180 metres (590 feet) above the sea. Were the monks crazy or dedicated? I’ll let you decide that one. Disappointments as many other things seem to cluster in threes, and our third no-go zone proved to be the monastery. When we hopped off the ATV and approached the gate there was a sign that said visitors had to be “decently dressed” and that included no shorts. It went on to say that alternative clothes were not provided any more. So if you go to Amorgos and you really want to visit the monastery, take long pants with you. Looking at our knees poking out below our shorts, we both knew we weren’t going anywhere. But when I looked up at the inordinately steep stepped path making its way to the entrance, I wasn’t overly disappointed.

Our first Minoan ruins

Determined to squeeze in one more attraction before we returned the ATV, we headed back through Katapola village and into the hills. The Minoan site we were visiting was further than we anticipated and we were glad we hadn’t decided to walk! We parked and hiked up the unmade path on private property (there was a sign that said “please close the door”). There were excellent views on either side to the bays.

We came to the ruins which date back to 3000 BC – the site having been inhabited from about the 10th century BC. The large carved blocks of the building that towered above us was originally the gymnasium from the summer residence of King Minos of Crete. Every block in this building – and they were huge blocks – had been carefully carved (you could see the chisel marks) and placed with exquisite precision next to the other blocks. Odd shapes were patched together like an almost seamless blanket of stone. There was also the remains of a Hellenistic temple that had the lower half of a statue still standing in place, and some less defined ruins that were nevertheless interesting to walk around.

Home James

The sun was setting and even though it takes the sun a much longer time to set in Europe than it does in Queensland, Australia, we wanted to get back to the ATV before dark. Back at Katapola we stopped at the supermarket for supplies, returned the ATV to the rental place and dinghied back to the boat.

on the ATV

What a great day it had been! Despite a couple of disappointments, overall, Amorgos had turned out to be an unexpected jewel in the Aegean, with many places of interest and beauty to visit. You can see our trip around Amorgos in this week’s video.

Next week, I’ll share our trip from Amorgos to Ios. It’s a journey that brings us gifts from Poseidon, near disaster with our headsail furling line, and beautiful anchorages, along with a happy reunion with our sailing friend Jim. I look forward to sharing it all with you next Friday.

Sailing A B Sea

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