31 October 2018

Kea - A Day on the Road

The 6th century BC Lion of Kea lies looks across the valley to the capital.  It's granite body has been beaten to a lithe slenderness by centuries of weather but it is still smiling.  What the heck is it doing here? is the question.
The island of Kea is the first on our hop, skip and jump across the Cyclades and Dodecanese to Turkey.  The "season" has essentially ended here.  We are anchored in, at high season a bopping place full of charter boats and 'yachties'.  Tavernas line the shore.  All but three are now closed.  The only convenience store in town also closed.  So it's very quiet. The main town on another petal of the same bay is slightly busier with ferry boat traffic but still tavernas are closed and three boats are on the long town wall.
Incredibly, every square inch of every slope of this hilly and steep island, unless marred by the building of innumerable villas, is manicured with ancient terraces.  They seldom demarcate areas crops or orchard but give the island a striped pattern.

We're not complaining.  After the hustle and bustle of the season, it's rejuvenating to have lower temperatures, fewer boats on the water and far less tourists at the ruins.  But it is very quiet!
The strange green-brown rock is the building material for the vast majority of houses and all walls.  It means the villas are well camouflaged but the house views became slightly monotonous.

The coast is windswept and extremely dry at this time of year.  This low scrub is most likely green in spring but now is more like desert tumbleweed.

The island has 12 marked trails but having a bum ankle has meant that I only lust after them in frustration and Peter patiently sticks by my side.  As an alternative, today we rented a car.  And it was great.  The island is amazing with great waves of high, steep hillsides.  Except where there are great swaths of rock, every inch is terraced with ancient retaining walls of the local stone.  Villas dot the hillsides, mostly lovely but some an eyesore as in all places.  The vast majority of buildings are built of the local green-brown stone.

The main road runs along the ridge joining hilltops, not along the coast which is like corrugated cardboard in its continuous rise and fall and hence much more challenging for the civil engineer I would suppose.  The views are stunning and dramatic.  Rocky coasts, dry with patches of green grass and stunted trees on steep hills rising to sharp peaks and descending to very narrow valleys.
The monastery on this lonely cape was closed.  The monks had an awe-inspiring view.

Milly at rest.

The main town and capital or Hora/Chora/Kora (As in many Greek names and words, spelling varies according to unknown-to-us rules.  Along with the Cyrillic alphabet, it makes finding our way and learning words a slow process.) called Ioulidha was a highlight of the day.  Sitting high in the crook of two steep hills, the white homes with red tile roofs seemed to tumble down the slopes.  The flagstone alleys were too narrow for vehicles and added to the atmosphere of a simple life from a past time.

The chora looks like a painting from afar.

During the time when pirates pillaged riches and kidnapped people for the profitable slave market, in self defence the people in the coastal villages on the Cyclades Islands moved inland to hilltops.  The chora on each of the islands is still located in this defensive position.

Being inland means that vegetation has a greater chance of survival.  There are trees, green grass and flowers, nonexistent on the coast.

The chora is built around nine springs each equipped with donkey troughs - the much more picturesque "gas station".

The jumble of chora houses built on the hillside.

Early a.m. start as we leave Kea.  The chora nestled in the hills and the villas on the coast.

The same monastery from the sea.
Kea is our first Cyclades Island and, so far, my favourite!

October 21-26, 2018
Anchorage: Ormos Vourkari, Kea
N37.40' E24.19'

23 October 2018

Paying Our Respects at Poseidon's Temple

An imposing view of the 5th century BC Temple of Poseidon from Milly's cockpit.  A sailor must pay homage.
The perfect anchorage for sailors dependent on a gentle sea, Poseidon's Temple.  And the Greeks sure knew how to pick their temple's sites.  Poseidon's is majestic, perched high on Ak Sounion, a point at the southern tip of Attica, Athens' peninsula and at the beginning of the ancient Aegean trade route.

Our offering was a shell - seemed appropriate - strategically placed among the crocuses at the base of one of the pillars, just beyond the "do not enter" sign.

Lord Byron visited the temple in 1810, scratched his name and a verse on a pillar! followed suit by uncouth tourists so now it is roped off.  
A challenging rough and steep path up but I'm sure Poseidon appreciated it.

A steep slope to the sea on which lay the foundations of homes laid out in blocks, the modern stairs originally being the main drag.
Saturday, October 20-21, 2018
Ak Sounian
N37degrees 40 minutes, E14 degrees 24 minutes

22 October 2018

Cruising the Ionian Sea

It is tough not to compare the coasts we have been cruising.  Each has it's own beauty.  We often comment that a place reminds us of another.  Although our time spent is longer than most on holiday, there is always more to see and places we have missed - more than we have seen, actually.  So comparisons are unfair, based on superficial observations.

Given all that, we agree that the Greek Ionian Islands are among the best cruising grounds with the most spectacular scenery we have enjoyed in our four years.  The islands are large enough to offer lots to do but small enough that sailing along on Milly, you can see layer upon layer of islands and mountain tops.  The villages are not quite as charming as the villages in Croatia with their caramel coloured stone and orange tiled roofs.  The Ionian suffered from a devastating earthquake in 1953 which demolished many of the old buildings in turn replaced by not so charming or imaginative blocks.  Still some of the villages are lovely with the usual promenade lining the harbour.  The water is a glorious multi-shaded clear blue and the skies (until about three weeks ago) equally clear and blue.  History riddles the islands with sea battles, ruins, monasteries, forts from ancient to modern.  The people have been kind and friendly.

With this incredible background, the only big downfall, like all the Mediterranean as we have experienced it, the wind is all over the place.  There is no consistency of force or direction.  We've had some great sails but too often Milly is a motorboat - we have gone through way more diesel this season than our way up the entire South American coast from B.A. to Trinidad.  And then there are boras, and medicanes.

So in our world, all is not perfect....but pretty damn great!!  And the Aegean is supposed to be even better.

The Ionian in photos:

Number one highlight on this trip to Corfu was hosting Emily and Gid for a few days.  We did a quick tour of the northern coast of the island, spending three nights at anchor.  They know how to make themselves comfy...

...and find the shade.

Before joining us, they had spent a week with Gid's family on a motor yacht.  We were lucky enough to join them for an elegant dinner on the sumptuous yacht.  A really lovely experience.
Waving good-bye to Gid's parents, as we left Corfu Town anchorage.

Sailing vessel Milly becomes a medical clinic more often than you would think.  Em and Gid both opted for the ear cleanse treatment.

Our anchorage on the west side of Corfu in a vast bay surrounded by high cliffs.

Reportedly, the most photoed church in Corfu with the airport within spitting distance.

Only in Greece!

Sweet town of Gaios on Paxos.  It is protected by a small island that is so close the waterfront feels like it's on a river.

The cliffs on Andipaxos are spectacular white limestone that was so etched by time and waves that it looked like large snakes were coiling over themselves.  The coast was dotted with caves.
Our anchorage in Erika Bay was almost deserted after the tripper boats left and before they reappeared the next day.  By late morning it was packed with others enjoying the amazingly clear water.

Levkas used to be attached to the mainland until about the 7th century BC when the first canal was built by the Corinthians and then again by Augustus in Roman times.  We had to wait for the all clear when the highway bridge was raised and twisted to let the boat traffic through.  It was the closest we had been to a traffic jam in a long time.

Very cool engineering.  The floating bridge has both ends raised and then swivels to lie parallel to the canal bank.

Another tranquil anchorage on Nisos Meganisi in Ormos Kapali.  We spent a few days walking the island and visiting two of it's three tiny villages.  The village of Spartakhori was perched on a hill top with a gorgeous view over the enormous bay and mainland.

On a windy night, the only protected port on Nisos Kalamos was at Port Kalamos where this guy, George, is the unofficial harbourmaster who directs Med mooring for the privilege of eating at his restaurant.  We were entertained by his traffic cop talents when several fleets of boats arrived in the late afternoon in mounting wind until a anchoring boat pulled our anchor out.  We left the increasingly crowded harbour to anchor peacefully - with a few waves - outside.  But we missed what I'm sure would have been a lively dinner out.

The village of Port Kalamos.

Ormos Sivota on Lefkas was a busy place, again with charter fleets.  We anchored but most tied stern to the town wall or on restaurant docks, hull to hull and overlooking packed restaurant tables on the promenade only a couple of feet away.  We were entertained here for a few days while walking the area.  

The completely protected and long Ormos Sivota

We rented a car for the day on Levkas, a large island by Ionian standards.  Ay Nikitas on the stunning west coast is a touristy but still charming pedestrian village built on the hill with a beach.  Beaches in the Ionian are usually rounded large pebbles or rock.  Very little sand.

Looked like an island in the sky.  In the heat of the summer, the haze is so thick that an island six miles away can be difficult to see.  The deep and narrow bay in the foreground is a popular anchorage - obviously.  We didn't go there.

Peter captured views for his boat bound wife.  The best included flowers.

Sweet town of Fiskardho on Kefalonia, packed with fleets of charterers.  It's the only town on the island that wasn't demolished by the earthquake in 1953.

Milly in the Fiskardho parking lot - I had to take the helm.  Nerve-racking for me and the boats on either side.

Peter's hike - lighthouse

Venetian lighthouse.  There were many marked trails around but couldn't do it....guess we'll have to go back.

Another tight squeeze.

Another sweet village, Kione on Ithaca.  

Heading into Vathy, Ithaca.