Friday, August 26, 2011

Passage Crete to Cyprus; now docked in our home for the winter

We cleared out of Greece 8 days before our 90-day Schengen Treaty allotment expired.  The weather forecast looked good for the approximate 425 mile passage to the marina where we would be spending next winter.  Why tempt fate by staying another week in Crete and then face the possibility of another meltimi.  Besides, both Bill and I were tired and ready to get somewhere "permanent."  

Clearing out of Crete is simple and convenient at Ayios Nikolaos.  Both Customs and Port Police are located right on the tiny old town harbor, just a 15-minute walk from the marina.  However, clearing out of Greece is a tad more difficult than simply clearing out of Crete.  To clear out of the country we were required to visit the real Police station, and that was about an hour's walk away.  Eventually we found the Police station -- after stopping to ask directions 3 times.  Each time we were told to continue on to the "corner" and turn left up the hill.  The "corner" was about 3 miles down the street from the old harbor.  And the hill felt more like a mountain as we hiked up the steep incline.  But find the Police we did.  However, getting our passports stamped was a major accomplishment and a testament to persistence.

The first 2 police officers had no idea what to do with us.  I guess not a lot of boats clear out of the country here.  Most boats go on to Rhodes to clear out, but that made no sense because we would be sailing northeast to then turn directly south.  We much preferred to simply sail east directly to our destination.  Why sail 2 sides of a triangle when sailing 1 side of that triangle gets you where you want to go.  One of the first 2 guys called a women on the phone and yammered away in Greek; then handed the phone to me.  The gist of the conversation was that when we wanted to leave the country then we were supposed to come to the Police Station 2 days prior to when we wanted to leave.  I explained to her that could not possibly be correct.  No country requires tourists to report to Immigration and notify of impending departure 2 days prior to actually leaving the country.  We went back and forth a few times but I wasn't giving in.  We had already cleared out with Port Police and Customs and we did not want to hang around another 2 days waiting for our passports to get stamped out of Greece.

Next, the nice officer led us upstairs to talk to his supervisor.  We continued to insist that we must have our passports stamped that we were departing Greece.  This man called someone else on the phone.  A lot of yelling and stern voices ensued, the end result being that we were to go wait downstairs.  We found a place to sit.  About 20 minutes later another man arrived; took our passports; and soon returned them to us -- all stamped out of Greece.   The reason we were so insistent about having the passports stamped OUT of Greece is that earlier this summer we met another American couple who did not have their passports stamped when they departed Greece last year.  When they cleared out the official told them that it was not necessary to stamp their exit in their passports.  So they left; went to Turkey for 6 months; and then returned to Greece.  When they attempted to enter Greece this year (at a different clearance port), they were fined 500 Euro each for not having cleared out properly and recorded in their passports.  As far as Greece was concerned, they had never left the country.  They also ended up having to hire an attorney and it cost them dearly in both time and stress (as well as money) to have this issued resolved.  We did not want to take a chance on something like that happening to us when we again return to Greece next year or the year after.  We wanted our passports in proper order officially indicating that we had departed Greece prior to the Schengen Treaty 90-day limitation.

Winds were about 18 knots when we left the marina at 06:45 Sunday morning.  This was a fantastic day of sailing!  The best this year.  Winds built to solid 25 knots from 155-160 degrees on our port side.  Following 2-meter seas.  Bill adjusted the autopilot response to a higher setting to allow for faster response time due to the large following seas.  We poled out the jib to starboard.  With jib and mizzen alone, we were sailing at 8 - 9 knots all day.  Perfectly flat downwind sailing.  Just lovely.  

Fishing for birds?
Just before we put the spinnaker pole in place our fishing reel spun out loudly.  A solid hit!  Maybe we would catch a fish in the Med after all.  We have trailed a fishing lure almost every time we have motored or sailed this summer, but the only thing caught thus far were 2 plastic bags.  This time it sounded like a real hit, not a flimsy plastic bag.  Bill started reeling it in as I adjusted course to slow the boat down as much as possible to make it easier for him to reel.  Then he said it wasn't a fish after all.  We had caught a bird.  And, man, did we catch this bird.  The fishing line was wrapped completely around its neck.  One dead bird now.  Bill reeled it up onto deck and then pitched it overboard.  YUCK!!!!  I could never bring myself to touch a bird -- live or dead.  They are such nasty creatures.  

He won't mess with any more fishing lines
We trailed a line for the entire trip to Cyprus, but this was our only strike.  And it was a darn bird.

At 14:30 we dropped anchor in a tiny bay on the southern tip of the island of Kasos, just west of Karpathos, latitude 35.20.73N longitude 036.52.29E.  Today's sail was 58.5 NM, average speed 8.66 knots.  Nice!  This tiny bay is extremely windy all the time.  There are high mountains and the wind funnels through constantly.  Normally I have the engine in neutral when we drop the anchor, but the wind was so strong that the engine was at 2500 rpm when the anchor was dropped this time.  It took that high revs just to hold the boat in place against the strong wind.  However, once the anchor was set it was perfectly comfortable anchored in the strong wind.  We enjoyed a very pleasant night with quite cool temperature.  It was so cool that I pulled out long-sleeve gear, thinking we would need it during the nights on the passage to Cyprus.  Wow, was I ever wrong.

We departed Kasos at 07:45 the following morning.  I was just freezing and wrapped up in a blanket for the first 3 hours out.  Winds were strong and we saw top boat speed of 10.01 knots.  By the time we cleared beneath the island of Karpathos, the wind was gone.  Just gone entirely. The rest of the passage to Cyprus was spent motor-sailing or motoring.  There was to be no more sailing on this trip.  And when the wind died, the coolness immediately disappeared.  Soon it was swelteringly hot.  And it has remained hot since then.

At approximately latitude 35.22.2N longitude 027.51.3E we began to hear Israeli Navy monitor marine traffic off the coast of Israel.  That was 410 NM away!  This was an anomaly because VHF radios normally work strictly on line-of-sight, with a distance limit of approximately 25 miles.  We also heard Haifa Port Control.  Later we also heard Turkish Coast Guard and Alexandria Port Control.  We were also picking up AIS targets (commercial ships) for hundreds of miles in all directions.  This is the second time we have experienced such an anomaly.  The other time was halfway between Ashmore Reef and Bali, where we picked up VHF conversations and AIS targets up to 768 NM away in the southern Indian Ocean off the NW coast of Australia.  It feels very odd to be listening to radio conversations hundreds of miles away.

We spent 2 nights at sea.  I love nights at sea.  The stars and the Milky Way are awesome.  The first night there were a couple of shooting stars -- one of which was the lowest and brightest that I have ever seen.  It looked like a fireworks display.  There was a waning tiniest sliver of moon that rose very late during my watch each night -- almost yellow orange.  Very pretty.   We arrived at Delta Marine in Girne at 09:00 Wednesday morning.  From Kasos, we had sailed (motored) 317.6 NM in 49.25 hours; average speed 6.45 knots and a lot of diesel burned.  Clearance into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus took only minutes.  They were most concerned about whether we had visited Southern Cyprus -- the Greek side of the island.  Nope.  We came straight from Crete.  The clearance official acted as if he had never cleared anyone into TRNC direct from Crete.  Guess we took the route less traveled.

Girne is the Turkish name for this city.  Kyrenia is the Greek name.  Kyrenia has been under Turkish control since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.  Those Turks and Greeks just cannot get along very long.  All the islands and many of the cities on the 2 mainlands have changed names repeatedly as control switched back and forth between Turks and Greeks.  The island today is divided into Southern Cyprus (Greek side) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  We are staying in the TRNC.  This removes us from EU countries and gives us respite from the Schengen Treaty 90-day limitation.  No other country recognizes Northern Cyprus except Turkey.   This means we cannot leave here and go back to Greece.  We must first go to Turkey.  Passports are not stamped in Northern Cyprus.  So once one clears out of Turkey, there should be no problem entering Greece because there is no record of one every having been in Northern Cyprus -- that illegal unrecognized country where we have chosen to winter.

Kyrenia Castle (a/k/a Girne Castle)
Kyrenia dates to the time of the end of the Trojan War.  It was founded by the Achaeans, ancient Greek colonists from the Peloponnese.  Neolithic  artifacts in the area date back to 5800 - 3000 B.C.  Mycenaean tombs in Kyrenia date to 1300 - 500 B.C.  The earliest written reference made to the town of Kyrenia is found in Egyptian scripts dating from the period of Ramses III, 1125 - 1100s B.C.  Along the coastline there stands a large castle.  Kyrenia Castle is one of the most impressive castles to have survived since the Middle Ages.  Supposedly, it was built to protect the city from pirates in the 7th century A.D.   However, remnants left from the Roman Age show that the history of this castle dates back to older times  -- probably around 37 A.D.  King Richard III of England had captured the island during the Crusades in 1191 A.D. and the Knights Templar used the castle.  The castle was heavily demolished by the attack of Genovese in 1373.  The Venetians rebuilt the castle in order to gain protection from the Ottoman fires.  New city walls and round towers were added.  When the castle was finished, the church of Saint George, used by the Knights Templar and supposedly built in 1100, was within the city walls.  We had a good view of this castle but did not take a tour. It was too hot.  Maybe we will return when the weather is cooler.

Cyprus is interesting in the simple fact that the island has retained the same name all the way back to when it was owned by ancient Egypt.  Very few islands in the Med can make that claim.

The marina office manager offered us a ride into town, which we gratefully accepted.  It was really hot and neither of us relished a long walk into town.  We found a place to purchase a new TurkCell simm card for our phone.  The TurkCell simm card from Turkey will not work here.  I inquired about a 3G simm card for internet access, but the shopkeeper seemed to not know what I was talking about.  Guess they do not have 3G here yet.  We walked around a bit; found an ATM to replenish our supply of Turkish Lira; and enjoyed an early kebab wrap lunch.  No more of those pita gyros; we are now back in the Turkish land of kebab wraps.  Both are delicious, but I will miss that yogurt sauce on the gyros.

Early the next morning we moved to the 24-hour fuel dock at the tiny marina and filled up with diesel.  Bill also filled 2 jerry-jugs with diesel so he can top-up the tank after motoring the additional distance to Karpaz Gate Marina.  We want the fuel tank filled to the brim for the winter in order to avoid condensation inside the fuel tank.  Water and diesel don't play well together.

At 08:00 we departed the harbor at Girne and motored eastward.  Still no hits on the fishing line although we did see one 4-ft fish.  So now we know there really are a few fish in the Med; they are just very few and very far between.  At 15:00 we docked at Karpaz Gate Marina, which will be our home for the winter.  Today's trip was 46.5 NM, with average speed of 6.64 knots -- all motoring in windless heat on flat seas.

After tying up we were informed that there currently is no electricity available.  Awhh, shucks!  We were so looking forward to sleeping in air-conditioning tonight.  It was 94.8F inside the boat when we docked.  Later, we learned that a marina worker had died the previous day due to an electrical problem.  All electricity to all the docks has been turned off pending completion of the police investigation.  Rumor has it that the metal pieces along the edges of the docks are conducting live electricity.  The worker was standing on one of these metal pieces when he leaned over and touched a steel boat, sending electricity through his body.  He fell into the water and the other workers retrieved his body, but he was already dead before he hit the water.  How sad!  This marina is being built by a company in Israel and they brought in a lot of workers from Israel.  I do not know if this man was a local or if he was one of the imported workers.  Sad, either way.

We think it will be several days (or weeks, IMHO) before electricity is restored to the docks.  There are 32 yachts in this new marina now.  Over the next 3 weeks they are expecting another 20 yachts to arrive from Marmaris, all of whom will be wintering here.  Hopefully, the power will be restored before they arrive.  Otherwise, it will get really noisy with everyone running their generators to keep boat batteries charged.  The other bad thing is that the water is controlled by an electrical panel in the marina office.  No electricity to the docks means no water to the docks either.  None of us wants to run our watermakers inside a marina.  But, at least the water here is exceptionally clean if that becomes necessary.  It is very hot here.  August is the hottest month, so hopefully it will start to cool off very soon.  Last night we slept beneath 4 fans; and it was still too hot all night long to sleep well.  By 05:00 I gave up and moved to the cockpit.  If I was going to enjoy a cup of hot coffee, it would have to be well before the sun rose to heat things up even more.  It was 85F inside the boat at 05:00 this morning.  It is 15:30 as I type this, and temperature here by the nav station is again nearly 95F.  I will longingly look back on these days when we are freezing our tushes off this winter.

Tonight we are going to Fish & Chips night at a local restaurant operated by a British couple.  (There are a lot of Brits in Northern Cyprus for some reason.)   It is a regular Friday night event.  They even send a car to the marina to pick us up for dinner.  Nice.  Especially since there is absolutely nothing to do around here.  This week we will try their Friday night Fish & Chips.  Next week we will try their Saturday Barbeque.  Although we know from repeated experience all around the world that what will be served will not remotely resemble barbeque as defined by Texans.

Will add a photo or 2 later.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Santorini and Crete

 "Whitewashed towns balanced on plunging cliffs......."
 ".....Santorini's landscape is nearly as dramatic as the volcanic cataclysm that created it."  

So states our travel guidebook..  And that is a perfect description.  This truly is a special place.
Towns are all on top of the cliffs, only a couple "docks" at sea level
City on top of cliffs at Santorini
The eruptive past has led some to believe that Santorini is the lost continent of Atlantis.  That would be a stretch of imagination to me.  Plato first recorded the Atlantis legend that has baffled historians to the present.  His description of an ancient island civilization which vanished as the result of a great natural catastrophe has been variously fixed in the Antilles, America, an island somewhere on the continental shelf off the Mediterranean (slightly northwest off Africa) and Malta.  In the last 40 years the location of Atlantis has moved to Greece and many eminent authorities now believe that Thira was in fact the fabled island.

Oia on cliff top
Oia on top
The Venetians gave the island its name (Santorini) in the 13th century, as a reference to Saint Irene. Before that it was referred to as Kallisti, Strongili or Thera.  Our electronic C-map charts refer to the island as both Santorini and Thira.  We have noticed that today many of names of the cities and islands are spelled with interchangeable "e" and "i" -- almost as if the Greeks cannot make up their minds which vowel best translates their language to English.

Road / walkway up to Oia

The island was an outpost of Minoan society from 2000 B.C. until around the turn of the 17th century B.C., when an earthquake destroyed the wealthy maritime settlement of Akrotiri.  All hope of recovery vanished when a massive volcanic eruption spread lava and pumice across the island around 1627 to 1660 B.C. There is an archaeological dig currently going on at the settlement of Akrotiri.  It is supposedly preserved by the volcanic eruption similar to what happened at Mt. Vesuvius.  We did not visit this site, but maybe we will make it back here another time to see this wonder. 

One of the 2 sea level settlements

The archipelago of Santorini is located about 120 miles southeast from mainland Greece and is a group of circular volcanic islands in the Aegean Sea. It is the southernmost island of the Cyclades.  In 2001 the population of Santorini was estimated at about 13,600.  Santorini is an enormously popular tourist destination.  Large ferries and cruise ships move about inside the caldera almost constantly.   The 2 major cities are Fira (the capital) and Oia on the northern tip.  Another popular town is Pyrgos, located at the top of the island and where an ancient Venetian fortress is located.  Pyrgos also is enclosed by medieval walls. The blue-domed churches dotting the hilltop settlement are a visible legacy of the Ottoman occupation.  The archipelago of Santorini was annexed to current-day Greece in 1912.

Note different rock colors due to eruptions
Archaeology interests me.  But rather than bore our readers with facts about tephra, basalt, rhyolite and ash lines, I will limit my remarks to snippets gleaned from guide books, sailing guides and websites.

The volcanic eruption likely was preceded by numerous small earthquakes spanning a period of 4 to 6 months, which would have alerted the residents that something was amiss and provided them ample time to flee the island.  the fact that no human remains have been found at the Akritori excavation bears out this theory.

Eruptions layered different colored rocks and ash/debris

The eruption was really 3 separate eruptions -- 1 being rocks, dirt, ash and debris and the other 2 being gases and ash.  Supposedly one of the gas eruptions caused a tsunami estimated between 115 feet and 490 feet traveling at minimum speed of 100 mph that devastated the northern coast of Crete, just 65 miles south.  The tsunami is believed to have destroyed the Cretan-based Minoans.  The Minoan civilization ended soon afterwards throughout all the islands in the Aegean Sea.

There have been at least 12 large explosive eruptions, at least 4 of which were caldera-forming.  The earliest eruptions were beneath the sea near the Akrotiri Peninsula and were active between 650,000 and 550,000 years ago.  In 1707 an undersea volcano breached the sea surface, forming the current center of activity at Nea Kameni in the center of the caldera. And eruptions centered on it continue -- 3 occurring in the past century. 
Nea Kameni in caldera of Santorini -- new volcano dome?
Santorini was also struck by a devastating earthquake in 1956.  Although the volcano is quiescent at the present time, at the current active crater steam and sulphur dioxide are given off.  

We anchored overnight off Nea Kameni and the effects on my respiratory system was noticeable but dissipated as soon as we sailed away from the area.

The main point to us being that this underwater volcano is still active and could erupt again.   But scientists claim it could never erupt again with the impact of the 1626 - 1660 B.C. eruption.

Nea Kameni -- sharp hard lava

A good explanation of the major eruption can be found at: 
Minoan eruption at Thera

During our circumnavigation adventure we have had several opportunities to experience active volcanoes first-hand.  The first was underwater Kick-em-Jenny in the Caribbean, just northwest of Grenada.  That one requires daily monitoring because periods of high activity can cause boats to sink if sailing in the area.  Gases in the sea can cause less buoyancy and the water literally will not hold up the boat.  Most of the time it is perfectly safe to sail over Kick-em-Jenny.   We hiked to the top of a dormant volcano on St. Eustatia in the Caribbean.  We hiked to the top of a small dormant volcano in French Polynesia.  In the Kingdom of Tonga there were 2 underwater volcanic eruptions very near to where we were anchored, also a couple of earthquakes that made our boat vibrate at anchor like a car does going over a ribbed bridge.  There was minor volcanic activity while we were in New Zealand.  In Vanuatu we literally walked around on top of an active volcano spewing hot rocks on the island of Tanna.  Not the wisest thing we have ever done, but quite the unique experience.  And now we have visited Santorini and anchored overnight inside the caldera of an active volcano.  I think we are now done with volcanoes. 

Our Secret Sail
On Monday 15 August we sailed south from Santorini to the tiny island of Dhia, just 6 NM north of Crete.  Absolutely fantastic sailing conditions this day!!  We even dug out the Secret Sail (asymmetrical 'genniker' for the mizzen).  In Phuket we had this sail put into a sock.  This is the first opportunity we have had to try it out.  SO MUCH EASIER to deploy and retrieve.  Should have done this years ago.  

We anchored overnight in the easternmost bay on the southern side of Dhia, with hopes of arriving at the Old Venetian Harbor in Iraklion at a time in the morning where a boat might be leaving. 
Dhia Island -- very rocky & barren
This harbor is extremely busy and almost impossible to find a berth there.  We needed to be docked somewhere with access to the airport, and there are not that many places to dock in Crete.   The next morning when we were almost to Iraklion, Bill decided to try the marina at Ayios Nikolaos one more time.  They had already told us "no space available" at least 5 times.  As luck would have it, they said they could fit us in if we arrived the following day -- but we would have to vacate the slip early Sunday morning.  That worked perfectly with our plans.

Crete in background looks like Afghanistan
We did a 90-degree turn and headed east toward the marina 40 NM away.   As we turned south to enter the large bay, the wind skyrocketed and we heeled way over.  Scared the beejesus out of Zachary, but there was never any danger.  We have sailed heeled farther over than that, but Zachary never had "enjoyed" this experience.  He did not like it.  Soon we were anchored just north of the marina.  The mountains on the far eastern side of this huge bay reminded me of Afghanistan -- tall, rocky, barren and forbidding.  We entered the marina the following afternoon.  

Ayios Nikolaos from the anchorage
On Thursday we rented a car; found a gas station (since they give out the rent cars on flat empty); stopped at a large Carrefour supermarket and picked up a few things that we think will not be available in Cyprus; and at 03:00 Friday morning Bill and Zachary headed off to the airport 40 miles distant.  They flew to Athens; Zachary boarded his flight to Houston; and Bill flew back to Crete and was back at the boat before 16:30.  It is so nice when everything falls into place and schedules are followed.  Today we cleared out of Greece -- had to be very insistent to get our passports stamped OUT of the country.  At first light tomorrow morning we begin the sail to Northern Cyprus.   

Inner harbor, Ayios Nikolaos, Crete

Ayios Nikolaos is a charming town on days that there are no cruise ships in port; swarming with way too many tourists on cruise ship days.  There is a small outer harbor and a very small inner harbor surrounded by shops with all the designer
Outer harbor--Nikolaos
labels and with neat little eateries of all sorts.  Charming place to sit by the sidewalks, drink coffee and watch the locals and the tourists pass by -- and one can easily tell them apart.

Live escargot climbing the Cokes in a small market
Hard to believe our time with the grandkids and family flew by so quickly.  But I must admit that we both are tired and a bit worn out.  We are now looking forward to getting back our regular routines with just the 2 of us.  And I don't mean that statement to discourage any future visitors.  We love having guests; we are just tired.  I am very much looking forward to sitting in the marina for months,  There are several little projects inside the boat that I would like to tackle.  Looking forward to no schedules of any kind.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ios -- BeBe's birthday

Aaron and Lynn took a ferry to Santorini to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  Elisabeth and Damien stayed on the boat with us and Zachary.  Such a shame that BeBe will miss seeing Santorini.  Guess she will need another trip at another time for that.

Damien did not ever seem to realize that his parents were gone.  I guess having your big sister and a big cousin and 2 grandparents to occupy your thoughts doesn't leave a lot for a 2-year-old boy to think about his parents.  I had been a bit concerned about how he would handle this because he really does not know me or Bill.  This is only the 4th time he has even seen us, and the first time he was only 4-weeks old.  He certainly does not remember us from our visit last November.  This time he had 2 1/2 weeks with us living on a small boat, so I guess he knows by now that we are 'acceptable' people -- even if he doesn't know who the heck we are and how we fit into his family.

While in Ios we all ate lots of pork pita gyros for lunches and had an enjoyable time in general.  The beach there was the dirtiest beach we have seen in Greece thus far.  All those young party animals drop plastic bags, bottles and cigarette butts in the water and it all washes up on the beach at the end of the bay.   And here we have been complimenting Greece on how clean the waters and beaches are.  This beach is worse than Galveston or Bolivar Peninsula in regards to washed up trash.  

The summer time with the grandkids was winding down fast.  Bill decided it was time to administer their midshipman tests.  

They had watched the Horatio Hornblower series when they first arrived in June and the Master and Commander movie, so they are aware of the ranks in the old British Royal Navy.  Bill told them that if they learned enough about boats and sailing this summer and they could pass a test, then they could become midshipmen.  Something they both wanted.

At the first spreaders

The test consisted of being able to tie off on a deck cleat and dock bollard; tie a 'midshipman's knot' (a/k/a double clove hitch), tie a bowline knot,  feed a sheet or halyard onto a winch,  use a fender when approaching another boat or dock,  general basic navigational knowledge regarding port and starboard and give-way vs. stand-on vessel scenarios, ability to read the electronic chart and adjust to a plotted course, understanding of AIS targets shown on the electronic charts, and go up the mast in a bosun's seat to an undetermined height.  

Note Zach's expression -- "you're kidding me"
BeBe was scared to death of the bosun's seat for some reason.  She barely got her feet off the deck -- even though she was certain we had raised her 10 feet into the air.  I kept telling her that her head was at the height of mine while standing, so I am that high all the time.  But she wasn't buying it.  When we showed her the photos later, she could not believe that she really had not been way up in the air.  She passed all the other requirements of her grandfather's test; so she attained the rank of Midshipman.

Photo taken by Zachary at the first spreaders
Zachary also passed all the items on the test, but he went up the mast to the first spreaders.  He said next time he wants to do all the way up.  Or maybe at least to the second spreaders.  He got rated as Midshipman 1st Class because he showed a little more bravery about the bosun seat requirement.  Zach took a photo from up there to show his other grandmother.

Bill printed a glossy little certificate for each of them.  And I explained that these certificates have no legal standing whatsoever; they are only good for crew aboard S/V BeBe.

10th birthday
6th birthday in Bonaire
8th birthday in Cairns, Australia
9th birthday in Singapore
Elisabeth, a/k/a the BeBe, celebrated her tenth birthday on 12 August -- the day her parents returned from their trip to Santorini.  Celebrating her birthday aboard S/V BeBe almost has become a tradition.  She celebrated her sixth birthday with us in Bonaire; her eighth birthday with us in Cairns, Australia; her ninth birthday with us in Singapore; and now her tenth birthday in Greece.  One very lucky little girl, IMHO.

10th birthday in Ios, Greece
We gave her a toe ring.  Bet she was not expecting that from her grandparents.  We also gave her an elephant coin purse from Sri Lanka and a doubles-doll from India.

It has become a tradition to take her photo standing by the main boom on S/V BeBe on her birthday.

The following day Aaron's little family left on a ferry back to Piraeus (Athens), where they will spend a few days sight-seeing before returning home to Houston.   It was great having BeBe with us for most of the summer; she is really maturing rapidly at this stage of her life.  And we enjoyed getting to know baby grandson Damien a little better.  Maybe he will remember us when we next visit Houston in December.  That isn't so far into the future.  And we thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Aaron and Lynn.  They are so fortunate to have jobs that allow such lengthy holidays.

Half-underground church

The night after they left, the remaining three of us went out to dinner. 
a very windy dinner
Zachary scouted the little town and found a restaurant he thought we should try for our final night in Ios.  There was a tiny church built half-underground adjacent to this restaurant.  Very picturesque.  The food was pretty good.   The wind was blowing so strong that it was hard to enjoy dinner.  Zachary enjoyed an enormous Oreo crepe for desert.  Not my thing, but he loved it.  

The next morning we sailed off to Santorini.

Ios -- the sailor part of our visit

The sail from Sifnos to Ios on Monday, 08 August, was lively and fast!  Aaron probably did not think it was a fast trip -- laying down in the passage berth doped up with seasickness meds.  But the rest of us had a great time.  

Sailing to Ios
And we need not have worried about the baby getting seasick again.  He did just fine on the last trip and did great today.  I really believe that his seasickness the first trip was caused by eating and drinking too much prior to departing the dock and then reading and focusing on a book.  This time we closely monitored how much liquid he consumed; fed him only dry foods; and made him look up at the horizon frequently.  Takes some effort to
Cold sailing in August
convince a 2-year-old to stop concentrating on his magnetic trains sticking to a book and to look at a bunch of boring water
Too rough sailing --  just sleep
swooshing past the boat.  He did great even with the rougher conditions today.   The kids each handled sailing in his or her own way.  The baby never slept and remained active; BeBe was cold but remained awake; Zach was not cold and he slept most of the way.

As we approached Ios the wind increased to sustained over 25 knots from the north.  We entered the long harbor and scouted out the tiny harbor to the right.  Boats are no longer permitted to anchor off the beach in this bay because the large ferries need that area for turning room.  Yachts must moor/dock to the harbor wall or docks.  This was not our most successful docking.

Bill dropped the anchor and backed toward the outer dock on the right-hand side of the harbor.  We were going to the starboard side of a red motor yacht, with an old steel Italian yacht on our starboard side.  What a grizzled old dude that Italian was!  Huge bushy gray beard; skinny as a rail; brown as a cigar; and wearing a Speedo.  We had a horrible time getting in because of the wind blowing our bow toward the Italian yacht.  And, then, once we were finally tied up, the motor yacht on our port side said that our anchor was dropped over his and that he was leaving first thing the next morning.  We needed to pull the anchor and re-set.  So, we untied the dock lines; motored forward; pulled the anchor; and did it all again.  Our performance was no better the second time.   Eventually we were tied up.  Then the Italian man said we were now over his anchor.  Why the hell didn't he say something BEFORE helping us tie off the dock lines!  And he also was planning to leave the next morning.  But he agreed that he would handle it the usual way described below.

Bill found the Port Police and had our transit log stamped.  We planned to be in Ios until Sunday, 14 August.  Next we all walked to a harbor side restaurant called Enigma for a nice lunch.   Shortly after arriving back at the boat, a charter catamaran arrived carrying the most enormous speakers and elaborate sound system that we have ever seen in a boat of any kind.  This cat was tricked out like the booming cars one sees back in Houston.  And it was filled with young men, playing their choice of music loud enough for the entire town to hear -- including the mountaintop chora area.  Ios is well-known as "THE" party island of all Greece, and is very popular with the younger set.  But this was really too much.  We stayed mostly inside our own boat and ignored the party music.  Several hours later a resident on the hillside walked down to the Port Police and complained about the loud music.  The Port Police visited the cat and the volume was lowered to a somewhat more acceptable loud level.  Still wasn't really bothering us.  I liked the kind of music they were playing.  We turned on the rear air-conditioning to drown out the music noise so the baby could go to sleep that night.

The music volume crept higher and higher and soon the Port Police were back down at the cat asking for the captain.  The captain was not aboard, but the Port Police did manage to make the charter customers turn down the volume.  This was around 22:00.  The captain returned and learned of the second visit by the Port Police, and the music was immediately turned down to an acceptable level.  Around 23:00 everyone left to go party.

At 06:00 the following morning Bill and I were awakened by 2 girls standing right at the stern of our boat and yelling at one another in German.  They were surrounded by several of their friends, most of whom were carrying bottles of beer.  It looked like they were going to go to fisticuffs any second.  But the smaller girl ran back to the catamaran and returned with some keys.  She threw the keys at her 'friend' and the group dispersed.  Ah, hah.  The smaller girl had returned to the catamaran with one of the charter guys and she had the hotel keys belonging to the taller girl.  Harbor drama early on a Sunday morning by drunk young German women, aided by also-drunk young American men.  As the 6 or 7 German girls walked away toward town, the catamaran slipped its dock lines and motored away from the dock to retrieve its anchor.  The second the dock lines were uncleated from the dock, the music was turned up to full volume -- where it remained until the cat departed the harbor.  So childish!  They were showing the Port Police that they would do what they damn well pleased as soon as the Port Police had no authority over the captain.  By this time I was sitting in the cockpit drinking coffee and enjoying the harbor drama.  When the music cranked up, heads started popping up out of hatches all the way around the harbor wall and docks.  It was funny.

The motor yacht on our port side departed without incident.  The Italian yacht on our starboard side had all kinds of difficulties.  Sure enough, our anchor chain overlapped his.  The way to deal with this is that the boat #1 pulls his anchor chain in until the overlapping chain of boat #2 is brought up near the surface on top of the chain of boat #1.  Then a short rope is looped beneath the top chain and tied off on boat #1.  This normally requires that boat #2 let out additional chain, sometimes quite a lot of additional chain depending on depth and how far out the overlapping occurs.  Then boat #1 lowers his anchor a little and maneuvers his boat until his anchor can be brought completely up to the bow roller.  Then the short rope securing the chain of boat #2 is released and boat #1 goes on his way.  Boat #2 takes back up any additional chain he had to let out.  Simple.  We have done this before when we overlapped their chain in Sri Lanka.  And we have watched many people do it here in the Med.  Tangled anchor chain is a common problem in tight spaces where boats Med-moor.  That is why the lazy line system is much preferred -- no tangled anchors.

Only problem this time is that the Italian guy had a large fisherman's anchor.  Unwieldy thing.  It turned and twisted round and round with our anchor chain as he brought it up.  It was a huge mess and there was no way he was going to be able to extricate it.  So Bill dropped our dinghy into the water; quickly mounted the outboard; and zoomed out to help.  The entire time this was happening I was sitting in the helm seat with the engine running and the bow thruster down just in case we needed to maneuver our boat.  Bill and the Italian finally got the anchor chains untwisted and the Italian boat left the harbor.  I began pulling in the excess anchor chain with the control at our helm.  

And it just kept coming and coming and coming.  I had let out 68 meters in order for them to free the overlapped anchor.  Soon there was only 22 meters out.  That would never do.  It should have been more like 40 meters; definitely no less than 36.

At this point a Greek man on the dock offered to help Bill re-set the anchor.  They went out and tried pulling up the anchor into the dinghy.   They struggled and managed to get the anchor up into the dinghy, but the anchor chain was so heavy that the 15hp outboard was not able to propel the dinghy and anchor and chain out to where the anchor needed to be dropped in order to re-set it.  This was getting a bit ridiculous.  

And, just to add more drama to the mix, another charter boat filled with twenty-something guys and gals arrived while all this was going on and decided to back up on our port side where the motor yacht had left.  There were several empty spaces; I do not understand why they chose the one space that had a spring line tied across it to a bollard on the dock.  In anticipation of dealing with the overlapping anchor mess, Bill has tied a long spring line to a far dock bollard after the motor yacht departed.  This prevented the wind from moving our boat into the Italian as he motored away from the dock and dealt with the fouled anchor chains.  The charter guys asked me to remove the spring line.  I told them, "Sure.  As soon as we finish dealing with the fouled anchors."  This question / answer scenario was repeated at least 6 times.  Finally I got annoyed and told them that they could see we were dealing with a fouled anchor before they backed in; that I was not going to remove the spring line until the anchor was re-set because it was holding us from turning in the cross-wind; and that they could wait until we were finished or they could move to another space.  Their choice.  They decided to wait.

Since Bill and the local man could not bring the anchor out because the chain was so heavy, the only remedy was for me to retrieve all the anchor chain and then lower the anchor and chain into the dinghy.  This is what we did.  I let out 50 meters of chain into the dinghy.  They motored out to the correct spot and dropped the anchor.  We let it settle about 1 minute and then I started bringing in the excess chain.  Sure enough, at 39 meters the chain snugged tightly and the anchor was well-set.  Now I removed the spring line and the charter boat finished docking.  Told them all along that I would remove it when our anchor was re-set.  Don't know why they kept bugging me about it when they could see we were dealing with the anchor.

About 5 minutes after we were properly re-set the local man who had helped Bill returned and suggested to Bill that we move to the inner harbor wall.  The winds were predicted to start howling from a more northeasterly direction on 11 August and he said the dock area where we were would become completely untenable.  There was an empty space right next to his boat on the inner wall.  Another boat had just left there while we were dealing with our anchor.  Bill made an instant decision to move before another boat arrived and took that spot.  Release the dock lines; pull the anchor back up; turn around and back up to the inner harbor wall; picking up the lazy line to secure the bow.  Loved it!

The local man was right.  By Thursday morning all boats had vacated the outer dock.  Waves 1.5 meters high were crashing into the docks out there.  Whitecaps covered the outer harbor and bay.  While in the very tiny inner harbor there was barely a breeze.  The only bad thing about being on the inner harbor wall is the surge from the fast large ferries.  That surge causes the boats to move back and forth.  It is essential that your boat be docked at least 2 meters from the harbor wall.  We have a long passarelle, so that was not a problem.  But that forward and back movement when the ferries arrived or departed really got to me.  I am accustomed to boats moving side-to-side.  It is not normal for a boat to move forward-to-backward.  I had to hold onto something every single time.

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.