Monday, May 12, 2014

Leros, Fournoi and Naxos

 Ormos Partheni on the northern tip of Leros was the perfect place for us to hide out during several days of 20 - 30 kt southerly winds.  It is a fish farm area and there is limited space for boats to anchor.  Most of the anchorage is taken up by moorings for the fishermen.  Four sailboats were anchored and stripped of canvas, obviously left there while their owners went away for whatever reasons.  This is definitely the most sheltered place to anchor a boat that we have seen in a very long time.  There was only one other occupied boat and we anchored right in front of them; dropped our anchor at 37.11.528N   026.48.341E.   While we were there the fishermen moved one of the fish farms and harvested the fish from it.  That was interesting.  We did not know they could move those fish farms so easily.  Made a mental note that just because a chart indicates a fish farm in a certain area that the fish farms might be elsewhere on any given day!   Similar to vehicle driving laws in Asia, it is merely a suggestion and not empirical.  

Bill's new way of sailing.  Doing email and Facebook.
The southerly winds died down and switched to westerly, which we used to sail north to a tiny anchorage on the southern tip of Fournoi.   Sailed right past Patmos on our port side.   Used this opportunity to run the watermaker and launder clothes.  The favorable westerly wind died off and switched back to very low breezes from the south again, so we had to motor that final couple of hours into our desired anchorage.  We had stopped here after leaving Samos back in 2011.  I remembered this anchorage but Bill had no recollection of it at all...until we arrived and his memory finally clicked.  This time we had the anchorage entirely to ourselves.  Anchor down at 37.31.934N   026.30.269E.  It was lovely having this secluded place all to ourselves, weather not too hot or too cold and no insects.  Those conditions so rarely happen.

Fournoi is about 25 miles west of Samos and is one of the southernmost islands of the Eastern Sporades section of islands in the Greek Aegean Sea.  According to our sailing guide book the islands of the Eastern Sporades are generally more fertile and greener than the Dodecanese or the Cyclades.  Frankly, I could not see any difference.  Every island seems to be high and rocky.

Long island of Ikaria
As winds were predicted to pick up on Wednesday, this time from the north, we stayed at Fournoi only that one night.  Tuesday 6 May was our weather window to make the 'jump' over to the Cyclades (pronounced si-CLOD-ees).  For the first few hours the sailing was perfect; wind from our starboard rear quarter then moving up to beam.  We were about 5 miles south of the very long and very high island called Ikaria.  This island is so high that it often causes very strong wind gusts, but this day the sailing was perfect.  Until we passed the western tip of the island.  At which point the wind picked up to 20 knots true and was on the beam or slightly forward.  Seas were 2.5 to 3 meter.  It was a very lively 65NM sail this day!  As we got farther into the Cyclades the wind strengthened to 25 kts.

See the clouds in the distance.  I know that must be Naxos.
Clouds form over the islands.  Every cloud group visible
this day was over an island.

Our original plan was to sail to Paros.  We skipped Paros the last time we sailed the Aegean islands, and friends had recommended it highly as a place not to be missed.  However, wind strength continued to inch up and we were getting very tired of all the sea motion.  We decided to turn over the top of Naxos and head to Naxos Town marina.  Naxos is the large island just east of Paros.  Bill sent a SMS message to the marina manager, Nickolai, advising that we would arrive at 16:00; we had his name and phone number from when we visited there in 2011.

Narrow and shallow entrance to Naxos Town Marina as
seen from BeBe's stern where we first docked.  Later a
large catamaran docked behind us.
We arrived in Naxos Town marina promptly at 16:00 after a day of very rough sailing.  Very glad we had the electronic track from our previous visit here as the seas were so rough in the 25 knot wind that finding the entrance visually was impossible.  I followed our previous track on faith alone; could not see the entrance until we were about 4 boat lengths from those rocks ahead on the starboard side!  There also was a large dredging barge moored just to the NW of the marina entrance, with long cables stretched in four directions to its moorings.  We luckily missed the mooring that extended towards the direction where we entered to the marina because in the rough sea conditions we never saw that marker.  Just pure luck that I drove to the right of it because I never saw it.  This is a temporary hazard and obviously not shown on our charts.

Looking at Naxos Town from our docked boat.
Nickolai, a/k/a Nickolas, stood on the concrete dock just inside the entrance and waved us over there.  I quickly changed the dock lines from the stern-to that we expected to do to a port side-tie arrangement and Bill managed to get the boat close to the high concrete dock before turning the helm back over to me.  He is the stronger and muscle was needed to handle the dock lines in these conditions.  Several men assisted with our dock lines as the strong wind was blowing us off the dock.  Bill tossed one of them a spring line and then used our electric winch to pull the stern of the boat towards the dock until could get a stern line in place.  This was not of our most stress-free or graceful dockings!

We were very relieved to finally be securely tied up and fender board in place to protect our fenders from that rough concrete.  This is only like the fourth time we have used that fender board; but when you need it, you really need it.  Soon a large catamaran arrived and was tied up behind us.  Required 8 men on the dock to get that big boat tied up and they were all struggling!  These new catamarans have such high freeboard that the windage is high; very difficult to control in strong wind. Boats were crammed in here like you would not believe!  Everyone seeking refuge from the weather.

Only remaining standing piece of the
Temple of Apollo in Naxos.
The wind howled from the north for four days.  Causing lots of movement even when tied to the dock.  The most tiring part of it was the noise.  The sound of the wind was bothering Bill a lot.  We felt sorry for the charter customers who had to head back out in that mess just because they had to follow schedules.  Not fun.  A charter boat with 6 Russian guys came in one day.  They managed to hit our boat while attempting to dock but no damage resulted.  They really did not seem to know what they were doing.  The next day the Russians were gone and the charter company sent a couple of guys via ferry to retrieve the boat and return it to Pireaus (Athens).  Guess their sailing holiday did not meet their expectations, poor guys.  Normally May should be one of the best months of the year for a sailing vacation in this part of the world.  Winds should not start strong until the meltimi season begins, which is usually July.  Very weird weather this year.

The last time we were in Naxos we visited a Mexican food restaurant.  Another visit was on our agenda.  Unfortunately, Picasso's closed their Naxos Town location last year; now they have only the Plaka Beach location.  Darn!  That is much too far to walk and boats cannot anchor off Plaka Beach because of all the underwater rocks there.  We could take a taxi or figure out the bus system, but that seems like a lot of effort just to eat Mexican food.  We are still in Naxos and maybe that adventure will appeal to us later this afternoon, but as of this moment it appears that we will miss that Mexican dinner treat.

The northerly wind finally died down on Saturday and we took a ferry to Santorini while we felt it was safe to leave the boat at the Naxos Town dock.  Only stayed there one night and I will post a separate blog posting about Santorini.  I am not writing anything about Naxos in this blog because Naxos was covered in another blog posting when we visited here in 2011.

We are blocked in!  That is another Amel on our port side.
They do not speak a word of English.  Not a single word.

Minutes before we left to catch the ferry Nickolas had us move from port side tied to the concrete dock to be stern-to the first dock with our starboard side against the concrete dock.  This is unarguably the safest berthing place in this marina.  Today several boats left and even more arrived.  We are now blocked by 5 boats docked to the concrete dock where we originally docked, with several rafted to the outsides.  I'm sure they will leave before we are ready to move on.  These are all charter boats and those charterers always have a schedule to keep.

Sunset we were treated to upon our arrival back in Naxos.

Today Bill is scrubbing the Sahara Desert off the boat while I type this blog posting.  Everything on top of the boat is tinted red with sand and scum; we cannot stand it a minute longer.  This was the result from the southerly winds while we hid out in Leros.  We are also filling up with dock water; tests 230 TDS and tastes fine.  Tomorrow we probably will clear out of Naxos and move on.  Yes, we did clear in with the authorities upon arrival in Naxos.  We know lots of boats do not bother to clear in and out of each town port as they move about in Greece.  But we try to do the right thing when it comes to formalities.  Wind will pick up again on Wednesday; this time from the south once again.  This might be the last time we get winds from that direction so maybe we should use that to propel us northwesterly and skip Paros once again.

Both grandchildren, Elisabeth, a/k/a Bebe, and Zachary, will arrive in Athens on 31 May.  As of now, that is our only known destination and date.  That gives us 17 days to meander about 120 miles northwest.

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