Sunday, August 14, 2011

Naxos and Sifnos

Saturday, 30 July 2011, we sailed from Finikas on the island of Syros to Naxos Town on the island of Naxos.  This time Aaron took a couple of scopace pills and slept the entire way down below in the passage berth.  That is better than lying down in the cockpit with all the kid noise.  Being seasick is miserable.  I know well, because I was seasick every time I even looked at a boat for more than 20 years.  I finally got over that, but can still sympathize.  This worked pretty well for Aaron and he will likely continue the same practice on future sails this summer.

Texan friends Craig and Jan on S/V LONE STAR, a newer model Amel 54, had visited Naxos a month or two previously and had passed on their recommendation for a Mexican food restaurant.  They know how much we Texans miss Mexican food when in foreign countries.  Everyone aboard S/V BeBe loves all sorts of Mexican food, so we were all looking forward to visiting Picasso's.  Craig had also forwarded us the cell phone number of the dock master at Naxos.  We called just prior to our arrival and were directed to dock.  This harbor is very tiny; and, like most harbors in Greece, it is filled with local small fishing boats and small pleasure boats and larger day-tripper boats.  We got the last space available for a 16-meter boat.  

While Bill visited the Port Police to have our transit log stamped, Aaron and Lynn took the kids for a walk around the harbor front.  Dozens of restaurants and bars.  Quite the tourist scene, with frequent ferries arriving and departing.  I enjoyed the peace and quiet on the boat for an hour alone.  When everyone returned we tidied up and set off to find Picasso's.  This was easy enough and not that far a walk.  

Aaron and Lynn treated us to dinner at Picasso's.  Fajitas for everyone else; soft tacos for me.  And it was good!  Aaron and Lynn wanted margarita's, but Bill and I could not bring ourselves to pay 13 Euro for a margarita.  Or to allow them to pay that much for margaritas for us.  That is $18.72 USD for a simple freaking margarita!!  Nope; not in my world.  I realize the selling price includes 23% VAT, which means the actual price for the drink was $15.22 plus tax.  But even that is too expensive for a simple margarita.  I like Texas prices much better.   After our meal, the server surprised everyone with shot glasses of frozen margaritas for the adults and slushie-type shots for the kiddos.  That was very nice of the restaurant manager!  The margarita tasted fine, but confirmed our decision that it was not worth $18.72.  

It was funny watching Damien tear into the Mexican food.  That little boy likes spicy food; his older sister cannot tolerate any spice at all.  This Greek version of Mexican had no jalapenos so was not very spicy.  The seasonings were tasty, but different.  The best that one is going to find in Greece.  They simply do not grow or import the right ingredients.

We stayed in Naxos for 4 nights.  Aaron and Lynn took the kids swimming several times.  There was no sandy beach nearby, but there was a rocky area where people swam.  The kids were fine with that.  One day Zachary found a very, very tiny starfish and picked it up.  Elisabeth filled her shoe with seawater and they carried it back to the boat.  They wanted to keep it.  Bill convinced them that it would die because we could not keep enough fresh seawater at the correct temperature for it to live very long.  So Zach released the starfish back into the sea at the dock's edge.

Venetian Museum looking down toward Naxos harbor
One day we walked up through the winding narrow alleyways of Naxos Old Town.  It was very similar to the Mykonos Old Town, except not as large and not as commercial.  More people still live in Old Town on Naxos.  At the top is an old Venetian Museum.  When we reached the area where the alleyways turned into steps, I turned around with Damien in his stroller and let the rest of the group go all the way up to visit the museum. 
Eventually we met up again down near the dock area.  

Naxos harbor
Zachary was kind enough to take photos of every single display in this museum so that I could see what I had missed. 

The prettiest photos were shots of looking down toward the harbor where our boat was docked.

Temple of Apollo at Naxos

There was yet another Temple of Apollo on Naxos.  How many does this make now that we have seen?  Seems like every island in this area has at least one.  The only thing remaining of this temple was the outline of one end of the structure.  Who knows if that is even original or if has been "reconstructed."

The weather forecast called for yet another building meltimi.  We had seen enough of Naxos and none of us relished the thought of spending another 6 days on the same dock.  On Wednesday, 03 August, we sailed west to the island of Sifnos.

People on another boat had told us how much they enjoyed Vathi Bay on the western side of Sifnos and how beautiful it is.  The sailing guide stated that Vathi Bay was an excellent anchorage for sheltering during a meltimi.  Turned out that both statements were accurate.

The sail there was a bit rougher than most of the sailing in Greece had been thus far, but we enjoyed it.  After rounding the southern tip of the island and heading north, it became rougher.  There also is an adverse current on that side of the island.  The sailing guide had not mentioned that or we would have rounded the northern tip and taken advantage of the current and wind behind the beam rather than motoring into adverse current and headwinds.

The entrance to Vathi Bay is quite small and can be difficult to identify.  Of course, electronic charts and GPS have eliminated these difficulties.  Finding the bay entrance was a breeze.  Once well inside the narrow entrance through the rocky mountainside, the bay opens to both side directions.  It is a huge bay and so well surrounded by the mountains that it affords excellent protection.  The bay entrance is so long and narrow that the sea does not work itself around and cause swells as is common.  This was a good choice to visit until the meltimi blew itself out.

Aaron and family again took a bus into the main town on the opposite side of the island one day.  They did not find much of interest.  Our guide book states that the island of Sifnos has 365 churches.  That is its claim to fame -- 365 churches.  Oh, boy.  With a population of 2442 persons.  And I thought Tupelo, Mississippi was 'over-churched.'   Another day Aaron and Zachary and Elisabeth went into town together for a gyro lunch.  Zachary bought me a nice small ceramic flower vase; he remembered that I had looked at one in Mykonos but did not buy that one.  He is a very thoughtful boy.

Homemade boats to race
We stayed in Vathi Bay for 5 nights while the winds blew, checking the wind forecast several times daily.  We wanted to be in Ios on 09 August because Aaron and Lynn were supposed to take a ferry from Ios to Santorini on 10 August.  We all hoped the wind would decrease enough to make sailing there possible.  It would have been no problem for Bill and I.  But everyone else would not have enjoyed the sea and wind conditions.

boat BeBe
One day the kids built boats out of styrofoam and various bits of odds
boat Zach Attack
and ends found on the boat.  They took these to the beach and raced.  There are several beaches in Vathi Bay.  The northernmost one up behind the small harbor dock area is exceptionally well protected and calm.  Even when winds are blowing 30 knots, that particular area is totally calm.  Perfect for kids to play.

The first night in Vathi Bay a dark-hulled Ocean Star monohull charter boat dragged anchor through the anchorage and struck an Italian private cruising boat.  I was sleeping in the cockpit with Elisabeth when it happened and woke immediately, so I saw almost the entire episode.  The Italian woman was screaming bloody murder!  The charter boat never turned on any lights whatsoever.  Maybe they thought they could remain incognito.  The charter boat ever-so-slowly moved behind all the boats in the anchorage and re-set its anchor on the opposite side of the bay behind us.  All this in total darkness.  

And the wind was not even blowing all that hard during the wee hours of the night.  The wind often calms during those hours, even in a meltimi.  The charter boat dragged because -- like every other charter boat we have watched -- they did not put out enough scope on the anchor chain!!!!!!  I am sure these charter boats are not equipped with chain counters.  And the charter customers have no idea how much chain they put out.  We have watched thousands of them; and they NEVER put out even half the length of chain needed to properly anchor.

The next morning the dark-hulled charter boat pulled anchor and motored out of the anchorage -- while the Italian man was yelling at them to stop.  There were several marks down the starboard side and at the bow of the Italian boat which were caused by the charter boat striking it and dragging down its side.  The Italian boat had a dinghy in the water, but no outboard engine (heaven help me; I will never understand this European thing about paddling dinghies or using a 3 h.p. outboard rather than using a decent sized outboard engine!)  There was no way for him to go after the charter boat.  This charter customer should have paid for the damage he caused.  Bill blasted an air horn at the charter boat, but the driver steadfastly ignored all yelling and departed the anchorage.  We noted the name of the charter company and Bill sent them an email identifying the boat and describing the incident.  Don't know if that will do any good or not, but they should not charter to this guy again.

On Monday, 08 August, winds were down to 18-20 knots; so we sailed to Ios.

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