Bodrum, Turkey across from Kos Greece.
the line is actually the right side of the road we were traveling
Con in lineup for cash
Thasos Island and the town of Thasos below through the trees
As a thank you to Judy and Bruno and to the friends at anchor with us in Diaporos, we invited them to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary in this restaurant.
Our beautiful friend Judy. Below Con and I with friends, Bruno in the blue shirt.
a bad storm left the car pile up in Skopelos where our friends were visiting by boat.
Above the Cyclades houses are white and below (Chalki) in the Dodecanese are coloured. Above the Cyclades photo is a view of the Koufonisia Marina at the south end of the island.
Splattered from one end of Big Sky to the other.
Super Yacht "A" anchored in front of Limassol's promenade.
Edros III crashed on the rocks last year during a bad storm.
This year, we sailed from Cyprus through the Aegean Greek islands to the Northern Greek fingers and back to Cyprus for another winter season. Our land tours were in Canada, The Netherlands, a week in Ischgl, Austria skiing, Northern Greece to the Albanian border, Cyprus, and the Turkish occupied north part of the island.
January 1- 4, 2015 Hanging with the Gang in Carrot River
We're in Carrot River, Saskatchewan, Canada for a week, bringing in the new year with our daughter and family. The ice shack was towed today to Tobin Lake, joining about 40 others, “possibly a record for the lake,” Kris says. Weather is frighteningly cold, warming from -45 to -25ish. Con, Brit, Kris and Nolan returned to the shack the second day to do some fishing. I opted to remain behind trying to shake a flu-like cold, but take a look at what Con caught! They drilled a hole in the bottom of shack and dropped their lines, and Con pulled out a Northern Pike. We woke early to get to Nolan's first hockey game in Nipawin, a 30-minute drive from Carrot River. We had lunch, returned home, thawed out our feet, and were off to Nolan's second hockey game for the day! Weather today: -46. Poor Con nearly lost his feet to frostbite, and that was INSIDE the rink this morning! Below: Brit and Con with friends pushing the ice shack into position on Tobin Lake. The fish Con caught and they fried up.
January 14 -- Our last six days: Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, Germany and then Austria
Following a week in frozen Saskatchewan, with our daughter and family, Con and I soaked up every last minute with grand kids Dex, Hailey, (pictured working on their chocolate Christmas creations) and baby Kate in Alberta before flying to Ontario for a few days with Doug and Merrilee. We were invited again to present at the Toronto Boat Show. Our topic: "Demystifying the Med". It was well received. The audience there is familiar with the Caribbean, and we introduced the idea of sailing in the blue, warm waters of the Mediterranean where they could enjoy the diversity of people and their history, churches, mosques, castles, villages, capital cities, exotic foods, dizzying array of language and culture, etc. etc. etc.
My booSailing Through Life" sold out before we completed our shows. Right after our last show, we taxied to Toronto Pearson Airport and flew to Munich, and boarded the train to Innsbruck, Austria. Next stop via trail: Inschgl. We’ll ski here in the Alps for a few weeks before returning to Cyprus and to Big Sky.
January 15 -- Skiing in the Alps
We’re staying in beautiful hotel Fliana on the hill. Link to the hotel
With "half board" we’re enjoying a five-star breakfast and dinner with our stay. After skiing, we went into the sauna and steam area learning entrance is WITHOUT bathing suits. We wrapped ourselves in towels and enjoyed the whole experience.
Afterward we dressed up for a beautiful dinner in the restaurant overlooking the main ski run and we could watch the groomers clean the hill.
Breakfast the next morning including fresh fruits, freshly squeezed orange juice, baked goodies, and also on offer were dozens of cheeses and meats, and chef-prepared eggs. We'll not starve.
Con picked up a Canadian bug, and sadly spent the day in our room. I dressed in my ski gear, mountain maps in my pocket, remembering the 1A train that runs back to our hotel. Skiing is fantastic. A person can ski from Austria to Switzerland across the Alps.
January 16 -- Solo Skiing
For the second day, I've skiing the beautiful slopes alone while Con fights the nasty cold/flu. Heavy snowfall is expected tonight and throughout the day tomorrow which will be well received by the skiers. The lifts are fabulous. "Comfort" is the focus. The gondola and other lifts protects you from the wind and cold. Temperatures aren't even that cold, we're hovering around +3 degrees.
In the gondola today, I watched a lady undo her ski pole handle, use it as a shot glass, pour schnapps from her pole and pass it around to her companions! Others passed around a flask. By afternoon, the gondola rides were getting pretty animated.
January 18 -- Skied to Switzerland today
Still solo skiing while Con fights the sick bug and spends his days in our hotel room. It’s a wonderful room which overlooks the slope, so a person can’t get too bored with the view watching all the skiers. I take the runs closer to the hotel in order to check on him throughout the day, but today, he said, "Go further," so I did. I skied to Switzerland!
To get there: follow the path to the left, ski across the valley, take the ski lift up and over the Alps on the top of the world! The skiing was glorious, fresh packed powder. Everywhere I looked, the sun was sparkling off the snow covered mountains! Lots of people populate the valley area, just below the centre of the picture, but the runs I've taken are nearly bare.
January 22 -- Eighth Day Skiing the Alps
Yes, it can be done! We woke to ANOTHER perfect skiing day in Ischgl, Austria. Con, still fighting the flu bug and is remaining in the hotel room, venturing out only for the meals. I’m experimenting with so many awesome runs, challenging myself on the black ones. With the snow conditions at the top of the Alps without icy surprises, I've managed to take video so you can come with me down the slopes.
Last night the crowds gathered outside our hotel as it faces the main slope or "piste" as it's called here for the Ischgl Ski Show. I captured this while wearing my housecoat. Much warmer!
January 30 -- Back aboard Big Sky
We had six amazing weeks in Canada and Austria and now we're back on the suny island of Cyprus with a rented car to tour the northwest part of the island. We drove for nearly 10 hours entering the forest and not able to exit it until the sun was nearly setting. Apparently the forest is disappearing due to pastures, urban development, and forest fires, but you'd never know it from our view. I thought we'd have to spend the night there, as the road seem to wind around the mountains until it finally spit us out near Limassol.
Con followed up the email request he received yesterday to visit the customs person in the office just 50 meters from Big Sky. She asked, "Why haven't you checked in here yet?" We had no idea that we were supposed to. And she meant all the way back to September not just arriving two days ago.
The friendly Cyprian customs agent explained a number of times to Con, that he would be required to visit the customs office in the main port and provide a series of documents: A compliance certificate (we don't even know what that is); official survey certificate (we don't have that); form L2C (don't know what that is); and a form with instructions all in Greek.
Con sat patiently as the friendly agent continued to explain how important it all was. Meanwhile, the rain and now thunder and lightning was adding to the tension. After explaining that we've been in the Mediterranean for eight years and no one has ever asked for these forms, Con was dumbfounded wondering what his next move should be for this long, complicated process. As they both stared at each other, she glanced out the window at the awful weather and offered: "Maybe you could apply for a temporary import licence for the boat and I could do that right here." She went on to explain that there would be no extra cost or tax, so after a very interesting morning, Big Sky is now legal in Cyprus. Why Cyprus has different laws/guidelines from all the other countries in Europe is the mystery of the day.
February 1 -- Welcome February in Cyprus
Since returning to the boat, we put a cockpit (bimini/dodger) project on the back burner, as the steel worker wouldn't be available until the end of the month -- too late for us. We visited Glen, our Cyprian friend working on his boat, currently on the hard, who recommended another steel worker.
We cycled all over the town looking for his shop, but never did find it. We'll follow that one up a bit later.
We stopped at a small store where delicious 70 euro cent oranges were neatly arranged outside the window. An old man, possibly in his 90s was seated in a chair facing the oranges. "Kalimara," I said.
His face lit up and he carried on talking to me in Greek. I smiled and said, "Canadian," sorry, I don't understand." He nodded and carried on talking to me in Greek. I went inside to pay for the oranges and asked the proprietor if the oranges were from his tree. The grocer explained the old man's story to me:
The old guy lives down the hill and walks up this street every day, passing my shop. Today, he wanted to stop and look at the oranges and the old man said, "I'm very happy. I will stay right here today and die." The grocer made sure he was comfy and brought out the chair, turning it toward the oranges. The grocer told me that the old man is a refugee, like most of us here (since 1974) but life was hard for him. He lived in northern Cyprus and had so many orange trees -- thousands of oranges every season. Now he has nothing, so I made sure today that he is very comfortable, because you know, one day that may be me.
We stopped for freshly squeezed orange juice and a Greek-styled coffee (Frappe, no sugar please). Carnival is coming to Limassol and the town is dressing up.
February 2 -- Dentist, Endodontist, and Doctor today
Well, even in paradise we have to tackle health issues. Con's been struggling with his cold for nearly a month and now has an infection in his ear. We cycled passed a doctor's office; although his waiting room was busy, he saw Con within minutes, and 35 euro later, Con had a pocket full of prescriptions.
Our next stop was the dentist to follow up on a tooth that's giving me trouble. The long story short: three years ago I started taking a hormone replacement every day and thereafter struggled with debilitating migraine headaches, not aware at the time that they were caused by the medication. Attempting to dissect the cause, in Canada I saw an Ear Nose Throat specialist (took about eight months to get in) had a Cat Scan (took nearly a month to get in -- on a rush) with the conclusion: chronic sinusitis. Still chasing why I’d have that, I saw an allergist. Nothing learned. The sinusitis played havoc with my upper molars, so I had a root canal hoping to solve that, but the migraines continued. In Cyprus I had a beautiful crown put on the Valencian root canal. Finally, process of elimination, I stopped taking the hormone replacement, and viola, no more headaches!
I saw the dentist this morning, who phoned the endodontist who saw me 20 minutes later, took an x-ray as part of the mystery solving. Both said, "No charge." Booking a doctor, dentist or endodontist appointment in Canada usually means waiting a few weeks and you'd better hope you have insurance, because you wouldn't walk out of there for less than $100 just for them looking in your mouth.
February 6 – Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband. We celebrated together on the boat with a delicious home-cooked meal.
With the sun shining lovely and warm, we walked into town taking in the Limassol weekend ambience passing the paper mache people lining the streets. Sidewalk café’s are populated with friends and family, dozens of protesters stood around outside a government building protesting the Turkish occupation. A few dozen boys and girls scouts were collecting food for homeless.
February 7 -- Enjoying Cyprus
In the Limassol marina, it's pretty rare to meet other cruisers, mainly because there aren't any. A British couple on a motor boat, who keep to themselves, two crew members aboard another motor boat, and Con and I make up the live-aboards here. A few days ago we met a couple (an Aussie and Austrian) who came from Chalki, Greece to check out the marina.
Our good friends Judy and Bruno) currently live aboards in Crete, told them to look us up. We're glad they did, making it a fun opportunity to chat over drinks and snacks.
The next day, we visited with Italian friends, Francesco & Enrinca whom we met at anchor this past summer, flew to Cyprus along with another British couple and a Swiss man, all of whom came to check out the marina as a possible winter location for next year. We had an enjoyable visit with them in the morning, and great dinner out that night. We're planning to come back here next year, so perhaps the social life will pick up. Francesco and Enrica also Nauticat sailboat owners are like old friends to us. They brought us gifts, a block of parmesan cheese and delicious Italian sausage. We snack on them every afternoon.
Daily, we cycle 5-10 kilometers at a minimum, and every afternoon do our duty at the gym, getting our bodies back into some sort of passable shape.
February 8, 2015 -- Wind is a comin'
The screen shot from my Garmin Blue Charts show the low Tuesday morning in central Turkey with weather pushing from the Black Sea down the Aegean turning to run ram shot over Crete pushing east toward Cyprus. The small boat icon locates Big Sky. The Aegean will be kicking up waves to 7 meters in some areas. Many of the freighters are seeking shelter just off Cyprus and in the harbour just west of Limassol. The red flag just below the "Athens" text indicates 50 knot winds, so imagine how fun that would be out there, since it's ALWAYS more with gusts. Currently, our forecast is for 20 knots and we're experiencing a steady 31 with gusts to 36.
The marinara are setting extra lines on the boats
February 12 -- Carnival!
Okay, we were under dressed today in our gym get ups. (The gym staff pictured.) Today was the official kick-off day for Carnival in Limassol. Above, the staff at Limegrove Spa and Gym. "Tomorrow," the receptionist said, "dress up to express yourselves." We biked across town dodging teenagers spraying shaving cream on each other. Kids are having so much fun. The guy in the photo shop said to me, when I asked if this was the official kick-off. "Yes, God help us!" It's a lot like Stampede, with Stampede breakfasts, bands, dancing in the streets, and lots and lots of happy people.
February 10 -- Clocked 64 knots!
Big Sky is likely tucked into the calmest position in the marina, behind the three-story marina office building and on the east side of a 62-foot catamaran (a wall of a boat!). Despite that, we clocked winds in the 60s on our wind instrument today. Getting off and on Big Sky was a challenge, balancing down seven steps at the bow to the pier as the wind threatening to blow us off! Big Sky was heeling dramatically, so we took ourselves to Wagamama for sushi and later to the gym. The big winds are yet to arrive -- sometime tonight. Caught 60.6 on camera, but not quick enough for the biggest numbers.
We enjoyed creme brulee thanks to Albertine who gave us the package from France. It was delicious.
Con dipping his feet in the 19ish degree waters. Soon it will warm to mid 20s. One hundred NM behind him is Beirut, Lebanon.
The Ayia Napa man-made harbour housing fishing and tour boats. In a week, this town will be hoping with tourists coming to the warmer climates for Easter. This town is very near to Famagusta, and many signs reference it as "New Famagusta". The original Famagusta hotel zone is wrapped in barbed wire just around the bend to the left in this picture, in Northern Cyprus. The hotels there are unlivable and once they unwrap the barbed wire, they will have to be demolished.
February 16 -- Grandson Nolan turns 7 today! Yesterday, we remembered my mom, who would have been 88. AND, it was the Children's Parade in Limassol, during Carnival month. The Children's Parade took place yesterday as part of the carnival festivities. It appeared that every child in Limassol participated, most of them IN THE PARADE. It was a joyful time in the city. Bystanders weren't exempt from the spirited custom of spraying coloured sticky stuff from cans, or spraying shaving cream, and tossing handfuls of shredded paper on everybody.
February 14 -- Happy Valentine's Day!
We're having a cozy winter in the Limassol marina, however, yesterday we woke to cooler temperatures than in Calgary. Snow has covered the hills to the north, and with the north winds it can feel pretty cool. There's nothing to complain about, because once we're protected from wind, the sun feels wonderful.
Banana Apple Cinnamon Loaf
I baked a Banana Apple Cinnamon loaf, a yummy treat. For lunch, we had pork burgers in a pita pocket, stuffed with fresh avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow peppers, the traditional Cyprian cheese, Halloumi, and a fig chutney.
February 20 -- Snow?
We knew the strong winds would bring cooler weather, but the snow surprised us. At midnight outside it was 1.7 inside 11.4. Snow fell everywhere on the island except some of the coastal cities, like Limassol. This photo below was in the paper this morning.
Once the sun came out, we walked along the long sea-side promenade and then into the town finding a cozy table in the sunshine and ordered two tall glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice.
February 22 -- Carnival in Cyprus had its last foofarah
Without an official start time for the final day's parade, we headed out at noon, two hours too early. Instead we stopped at a restaurant sitting outside with the Carnival-dressed up locals we asked “mama” proprietor for a menu. With her hands on her ample hips, she said, “This is a local restaurant. What I cook, I serve.” We had meat pies in filo pastry. Meanwhile, temperatures continued to drop, and by the time the parade started, it was about 15 degrees. Hundreds of Cyprians took part in the parade, dressing in elaborate costumes and the purpose of the carnival is: to have fun. Sponsorships and advertising doesn't seem to touch the festivities at all. Men enjoy dressing in sleazy women's clothes and wigs, while women enjoy dressing sleazy. Kids enjoy dressing up as anything, and everyone of age drinks beer. As the parade was coming to a close, the crowd energy was getting higher. Con and I were sprayed a number of times with the sticky coloured stuff out of the cans, and had shredded paper tossed on us. Everybody seems to know each other and they're all having a great time.
February 25 -- Congratulations to Victoria and Ari on their wedding today
Friends aboard a motor boat behind us wed today in Paphos. Victoria's parents and a friend arrived from St. Petersburg, and Ari's mom and his friend arrived from New York. It's a beautiful day for a wedding. Sun was shining bright and warm by the time we woke up this morning. That's a change! In celebration of nicer weather and the wedding, we filled the boat with flowers. We cycle passed the fishing harbour most days.
February 27 -- Warm east winds are blowing
With temperatures threatening to hover in the low 20s these days, spring is on its way here in Cyprus. We're still attempting to get our muscles stronger each day with a couple of hours in the gym. It's not too difficult to work on the elliptical trainers with our view. Big Sky is center of the center window in the distance. We ended today's workout with a Cyprus Pizza. Just outside the marina, archeologists are digging up the road to check the ancient Roman ruins which are part of the castle just behind the road. Once they study it, they'll fill it back in and pave the road again.
March 5 -- Touring Northern Cyprus
Leaving Cyprus for Northern Cyprus used to be impossible. As recent as 2004 the border crossing opened (relaxed) allowing movement between the two countries. In 1974, the war between the Turkish and Greek people resulted in the north being claimed by Turkey, and the infamous "Green Line" drawn across the island. The UN put peace keepers at that green line, including a large Canadian contingency. Only Turkey recognizes Northern Cyprus as a country by the way, but here we are in what feels like a different country. Once we took our first step across that border, the culture immediately changed. We use Turkish lire, cay (pronounced CHY) is the drink of choice (tea in glass cups), the mosques call out five times a day for prayer, and of course, the language has changed.
We were waiting at our designated spot for the Rent-a-Car guy to collect us. Border is just down this street.
We asked the border officers not to stamp our passports just in case there are any issues upon our return to Cyprus. We were given a separate paper with a Northern Cyprus stamp on it. It's the same system as when we passed on foot from Jordan to Israel. Car insurance is invalid from Cyprus while in Northern Cyprus, so we rented the car on the Turkish side. Our hotel specializes in golf and tennis and since "tennis" is our second love, we set off as soon as we arrived to play.
Today, our first full day in Northern Cyprus, we toured the pretty northern coastal town of Girne. The picture was taken from the Bellapaise Abbey The old town of Girme is built around a horseshoe harbour with the Girne Castle guarding the entrance by sea. We sat in the sun sipping a Freddo Cappuccino (Greek cold coffee) watching the activities in the harbour. (Should have had chy (tea) since the Turks don't make the iced coffee the same way the Greeks do.) We snuck our lunch up into our room (food is strictly forbidden in the rooms) and then set off for an afternoon of tennis. Yes, that's a banana as my spoon. Con cleaning the clay court after our game. The Mediterranean is the dark blue in the background.
March 6 -- Touring Karpaz in Northern Cyprus
There are about 500 wild donkeys in the Karpaz region of Cyprus (the tip of the skinny strip of land that points toward Syria), so we set out to this remote area to see if we could spot any. Following the 1974 invasion by the Turks, the Greeks left everything including their domesticated donkeys who were an liturgical part of the Greek farm -- a part of the family. The donkeys were rounded up and taken to the protected remote park. We rounded the bend and were instantly surrounded by about a dozen of them. They have a reputation for being bad tempered and intolerant, but for the most part, they were polite when we were taking their pictures, however, a bit too impatient, budging in front of each other for their turn. This one had his head right in the car wanting us to take a close up picture. Wild flowers populate the region, making a beautiful colourful landscape down to the blue sea. This is an important area for the green turtles, one of three places on earth where they breed. They come ashore in June and July and lay their eggs in the sand and by August and September they can be spotted making their way to the sea. Surprisingly there was a Monetary at the tip of the island, with a Greek Orthodox priest coordinating its reconstruction.
We touched the holy water and carried on.
March 8 -- Our Last Day in the not-recognized-by-any-country-but-Turkey country of Northern Cyprus
We hiked up to the top of St. Hilarion, which hovers over the city of Girne. It's 732 meters above sea level. The castle was built during the 7th century to protect against attacks by Arab pirates. It's also the castle than inspired Walt Disney in the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Pictures above)
This morning, after years of seeing the white cotton-like tents in the pine trees all over the Mediterranean, we spotted the critters that build them. The Pine Processionary caterpillars. They are one of the most destructive species to pines. I rerouted them on their march toward the pine tree our car was parked under, but they got right back on course. They are extremely harmful to human skin if touched. They are the larva of the moth they will become when they burst out of the tent. The group was about a meter and a half long, each caterpillar about 3 centimeters long.
Reading Victoria Hislop's book, "The Sunrise" gave us great inspiration to visit this once vibrant holiday destination location, Famagusta. Her book centers around the conflict between the Greeks and Turks, written in a beautiful way from the perspective of a few families caught in the crisis. In 1974, when the Greeks left the city believing it was for a few hours, maybe a day or two, has now turned into 40 years and counting, they left everything behind. There's an area right of this picture called "The Ghost Town" a once elegant district including beautiful hotels and luxury apartments and houses, prestigious shops, restaurants, all mostly owned by Greek Cypriots. The beautiful hotels lined the white sandy beach and prior to the invasion was a tremendously popular vacation location. Once the invasion began, the properties were looted and soon after completely sealed in what is now rusting barbed wire and the district is guarded fiercely by armed Turkish guards around the clock. Absolutely NO PHOTOS are allowed as they're not skimpy with the aggressive signs.
When the Turks invaded, unlike other cities, they wrapped this Greek Cypriot neighbourhood in barbed wire (including access by sea) but left the Turkish neighbourhoods "unwrapped" so to speak. Tens of thousands of people lost everything they owned and many became refugees in southern Cyprus. In 1984 the UN declared that the area must be given back to the rightful owners, but that didn't happen.
It has been written by witnesses of Varosha the name of the district now the Ghost Town that clothes can be seen in shop widows, once the current 1974 fashion, tables are set in homes, clothes still hanging on the lines, car dealerships with new 1974 models. The sun has cracked the streets and mother nature is pushing her way through with thick vines strangling the neighbourhood. Today, the neighbourhood is unsalvageable.
I took this photo while Con read the signs. Three of them about NO PHOTOS, NO ACCESS... St. Nicholas Church, now a mosque. Varosha is just to the right in this picture.
March 10 -- Silicone and Dental Day
Last night, the crown I was told three years ago that needed to be replaced finally fell off (into my mouth while eating a Greek Salad). I sent an email to a Cyprian Dental Surgeon whom I saw about a different tooth. He booked me for the next day. That in itself is stunningly quick compared to Canada. He rebuilt my tooth and prepped it for the crown: 80 euro. The crown will be an additional 300 euro! In Canada, at least a $1500 price tag and premium for the immediate appointment. Today’s task: replacing teak deck plugs. A beautiful summer-like day to play outside. The second task: resiliconing inside the forward hatch under the anchor chains. I had silicone in my hair, on my face, legs, bottom of my feet, and all over my hands and arms. It’s hard to get off! I rubbed a half bottle of fingernail polish remover over my body and there's still residue.
March 15 -- Washing Away the Sahara Desert
The rain brought lots of sandy red Sahara Desert topside, so first opportunity we cleaned every nook and cranny, scrubbed around the windows, cleaned the screens, and even hauling out our carpets to wash. It was a good ol’ fashion spring cleaning. It's frustrating watching some of our neighbouring crew members wash, scrub, and shine up their boat only to have the sky open and the rain dump more red silky mud on their just-cleaned boats. We stopped midday to sit in the square and watch the Sunday crowds. They get dressed up and stroll around the pretty marina promenade. We made the mistake of ordering TWO gyro platters, realizing we had enough food to feed the entire Limassol community. Three days to Big Sky’s lift onto the hard for our return to Canada for Easter. We're now managing our fridge and cupboard consumption, even to the point of counting oranges and lemons for our daily intake. (Six more lemons for our lemon and honey morning drinks, only three of the twelve oranges needed for our afternoon tall glass with ice, and three more cucumbers and tomatoes for our daily Greek Salad. Life is tough.
March 16 -- Finished Cleaning Today
Con's had his shirt off for a few minutes and his skin has turned dark brown!
March 19 -- Enroute to Canada with a potential delay
We checked into a fabulous hotel near the airport for our early departure to Canada. While sipping Cafe Frappe, Con opened his laptop. An email arrived: "Your flight tomorrow to Frankfurt has been cancelled. You have been booked on a flight departing Saturday, (two days later). In addition, your flight Frankfurt to Amsterdam has been cancelled." After repeated attempts Con got through to an airline agent who was able to rebook us tomorrow through Vienna.
April 10 – After a month with family we headed back to Big Sky
Con and I said "good-bye" to our family and began a two-day flight journey back to Big Sky in Cyprus. We landed in Amsterdam early evening and checked into the Citizen M hotel just a stone's throw from the airport for a good sleep before our early-morning departure. (Citizen M Hotel is owned by the Mexx clothing guy, who sold the stores before they went downhill, meanwhile these funky, functional hotels are doing well.) Up early for our departure, we thought we had extra time at the airport to check out the electronic shop, but realized our flight was about to depart. We sprinted to the gate just making it. Con settled into his seat, the flight made its steep incline and turn left, when Con jumped up. “Barb! I think a rat just scurried between my feet.” Once in Vienna for our connecting flight, Con checked Wi-Fi and received a note from Ari, the man we hired to watch our boat return to the water. The headline: “Urgent! Call me.” Big Sky had slipped off the stern slings and off the crates sliding back on the keel. We arrived directly from the airport, at 3:30 pm and the yard representative immediately called the fibre glass repair professional and a stainless steel professional who both arrived within the next hour and a half. There are a few areas in the hull to fix, as well as a bite out of the stern keel, but equally stressing is that the ladder was still attached when they began lifting and when she fell, it mucked up the starboard stainless steel hand rail and gate. We are currently in a hotel room, as the yard brings in all their favours to get these repairs done within the week. Our departure was scheduled within a few days. That will now be delayed. Currently, Cyprus is on holiday – one of the biggest of the year. It’s when the Greek Orthodox priests burn the effigies of Judas hanging on a noose as part of the Easter celebrations.
April 12 -- Easter in Cyprus
Our return to Big Sky has been fraught with stress. Making the most of it, I've opened a bottle of red wine, compliments of Dimetri, our host from the apartment where we can finally lay our heads. Our time in Canada is wonderfully exhausting as we’re in constant motion visiting our four daughters and playing with our four grandkids. Then arriving in Cyprus to a damaged boat has been distressing. We’ve not received any word from the yard, or management, seen an accident report, or been told who is paying. We don’t know when repairs will be completed and how screwed up our sailing schedule will be. Albertine is meeting us in a few weeks at a rendezvous location at least a week's (good weather sailing) away. The irony is that Con and I say to each other, “We’ll relax when we’re back on the boat.” There’s been no relaxing since the crisis. So far, we’ve cycled to three different hotels. The first night’s hotel was bad news. The second hotel was a penthouse apartment, absolutely gorgeous, with floor to ceiling windows in every room, but not one window covering. For many reasons that’s no good, but especially being jet lagged. We cycled on to yet another hotel for the night, balancing our over-night bags on our carriers.
THEN, this morning, we finally booked the perfect apartment, nearly backing onto the boat yard! For nearly 45 minutes we relaxed, until we received an email stating, "It's Easter, and we can't move you in for a few days." Thanks to Bookings.com, we found YET ANOTHER apartment and Dimetri, the kind rep celebrating Easter in Paphos, an hour's drive away left his traditional lamb lunch to check us in. Now, two days after dropping our luggage on the tarmac, Con is finally sleeping. The apartment is perfect and has a great view of the sea. We cycled to the boat for our latte maker, pasta, and snacks, because, "It's Easter!" nothing is open.
April 16 -- Sea Trial & Marina Seal
Ever so gently, Big Sky was lifted (showing 32.2 tons on the equipment and that's with empty water tanks!) and lowered into the water with repairs completed professionally and quickly. The marina has been stellar in their follow up with repairs and ensuring we're okay with everything (following their accident with Big Sky). Once Big Sky was floating again, we took her out to do a sea trial and all systems work fine. We checked out the oil and gas platform that had been towed passed our beach-front apartment yesterday and then planted about a kilometer from the beach. Nobody gets excited about that here.
Back aboard today (April 17th), we moved our things from the apartment to Big Sky and will spend our first night aboard since returning from Canada a week ago. Enjoying a Greek iced coffee (frappe latte) in our cockpit with our friend Marina we watched this little guy enjoying his lunch. Marina insisted that I join her shopping (by car) today, a real treat from the back-packing bike rides we do, especially since we wanted to stock up on a number of larger items. Before shopping, we stopped at her cousin's house to pick lemons and another plum-like yellow fruit that is currently in season. Con and I are enjoying lemonade, hot lemon with honey drinks... no scurvy aboard Big Sky.
April 18 -- Hello Sailing Season
We woke today, checked the weather and decided "today" was the day to depart rather than Sunday. Our destination: a 50+ hour journey to Kos, Greece. A nasty blow is expected on the other end of our trek and the idea of it coming sooner and getting caught in it wasn't pleasant. Especially since we have Albertine joining us at a designated location and we'd better darned well get there! Our time in Limassol and on the island of Cyprus turned out to be so much more "home-like" for us than perhaps all the other winter destinations. Before leaving, we signed a contract to return next winter. At 11 am, we untied and gently bounced across the western side of the island waters before hitting the open sea, with Turkey on our east, the Greek islands to our north.
April 20 -- May Day May Day May Day
I put the anti-seasickness patch behind my ear, and we untied Saturday from Limassol, Cyprus after nearly seven months in that most enjoyable city. Albertine, Con's sister will be waiting for us on the island of Chalki the first week of May. With the big blow expected Tuesday lasting about three days, we needed to put a lot of nautical miles between Cyprus and Chalki. We motored the entire way, riding many currents running in our favour landing us in Kos, 331 NM in just 45.48 hours, at least five or so hours ahead of schedule. Con and I are a good tag-teamed each taking a two-hour night watch. During my shift, about 2 a.m. I heard a faint transmission come through on the VHF. A man with a strong (maybe Turkish) accent called: "Can anyone hear my transmission? May Day, May Day, May Day." I woke Con and we immediately responded asking his location, what his crisis is, and how many people aboard. He gave his coordinates in a broken transmission which we believed was near Kas, Turkey, five hours behind us. He said, "I've lost my anchor and will crash on the rocks." We asked again, "How many aboard?" We didn't hear from him again. We wondered if the call was from boat filled with refugees and that's why he didn't respond with the numbers aboard. Nevertheless, we would be of no help as a direct rescue for many reasons: we didn't have exact location; we were at least five hours away; and if he was in the rocks, we would not be able to get close with Big Sky. A male voice called us immediately on the VHF identifying himself as Olympia Radio (coast guard). With great relief, we relayed our information to him and that's the last we heard from either party. Our VHF transmits 30 NM and the faint May Day. Our RADAR can reach 72 NM but so close to land we would not be able to find him. Kos is beautiful and green, and the morning sun is warming up the land. We'll wash the salt (and a dead squid who'd hitched a ride on our cockpit stair) and then we'll purchase our Greek transit log, check in with Port Authorities, and then go visit some of our old hangouts in the centre of the pretty town.
April 22 -- Human Trafficking & the Kos Electric Boxes
Arriving in Kos before the big blow was definitely a very good plan since we’d have been stuck there for another week and late for our rendezvous with Albertine in a few days. The system going through Kos is registering 30 knots on our meter in the marina and it's running right down the Aegean to Cyprus. The sea is agitated! My heart breaks for the refugees desperately or ignorantly heading out in less-than-adequate boats mostly from Turkey and Libya attempting to make it to Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, and Spain. The beach was littered yesterday with life jackets and floatation devises. In front of the castle (main tourist area) refugee clothes were draped over various pillars to dry. The refugees jump from the trafficking boats and swim to shore. It’s heartbreaking to witness. The trafficking of human bodies from Syria and many African countries is an illegal billion-euro business and with no guarantees of survival. The refugee burden is putting tremendous strain on this country already struggling to survive. Kos is seeing 100 refugees arrive each day and they gather near the police station (beside the castle) awaiting their fate. It seems everyone is being processed and moved further into Greece to Athens and then on to other countries, mostly Germany. Thousands of innocent people are drowning in their desperate need to escape some of these countries – mostly Syria. It’s hard to know who is coming as an economic migrants and who are desperate refugees. It seems there is no distinction at the processing place. Everyone is accepted!
We passed the island of Rhodes just before the boat-full of refugees capsized, killing passengers in the early morning hours. The citizens of Rhodes didn’t hesitate to jump in the water and rescue those they could. We must have passed that refugee boat in the dark, as our timing indicates we likely intersected them. They travel without lights and under the RADAR. It’s frightening to think we could have hit them. Arriving at the Kos Marina, we purchased 10 euros worth of electricity and plugged into their electric box. Within a half an hour, it was used up. After two days of testing our boat, three electric posts, and talking with the office staff, who insisted the problem was on our boat, Con did a mathematical test. “Math doesn't lie,” he said. He plugged our kettle into the electric box, timed the boil, the quantity, and calculated that against what the box registered which resulted in the box running 19.3 times faster than it should. For instance, making a cup of coffee cost 5 euro! Finally, late last night, the marinara, who knew the box wasn't working, had an electrician fix it -- we think. The next morning, another boat arrived and plugged into the same box and we overheard him talking with the marinara about the electrical problem, “It must be your boat,” he insisted. It’s one of the very first places where we’ve run into less than honest people. Our experience is normally the opposite.
April 24 -- So Many Refugees; So Many Stories
The wind continued to howl for the third day, keeping us tied safely in the Kos Marina. We cycled to the store and before leaving the pier, the wind pushed me into the hanging buoy and I toppled over my handle bars. My knee, thigh, and elbow are well aware of the accident. The bruises are in full colour today, but bleeding has stopped.
This morning, Con and I cycled to the police station to witness the numbers of refugees waiting to be processed. Same as yesterday, about a hundred. We asked a young couple in their 20s with a nine-month-old baby if we could interview them (not sure what we’d do with the information) however the interview left us with more questions than answers. They agreed to the interview provided no pictures would be taken as they feared exposure. They’re from Tigre, population in the millions, near Baghdad and were escaping the militant forces. "Omar, my husband's name is dangerous, it's a Sunni name." The militant forces (the Shiites were fighting ISIS) eliminating Sunni's. As a computer engineer they anticipated an easy acceptance into the Promise Land – Germany. "All our friends will follow," the wife added. They paid $4,000 (presumably US dollars) each, "baby free" and choose the "fast trip for baby, who slept through it all," meaning the 14 minute crossing in the fast boat from Bodrum to Kos. First they flew from their city to Istanbul, took a bus to Bodrum, and climbed aboard a boat they had expected to take across, because they booked it. Their fear was, "being caught by the Turkish coast guard and returned to Iraq." They saw other boats, but those boats did not see them. (That's unnerving, since we sail at night...)
April 26 -- To Leros
The wind put up a real ruckus last night, blowing with a vengeance causing the water to slap loudly at our stern and by morning, we saw the lovely gift it left -- a thick layer of Sahara Desert everywhere. After a good scrubbing, we untied ourselves from the crisscrossed marina lines and set off for Leros on a beautiful beam reach with 17 - 20 knot winds on a flat sea. A jumbo-sized lone dolphin swam with us for a short while, coming close to the stern, turning sideways to take a good look at us. Behind the dolphin is the city of Bodrum, Turkey. Four nautical miles separate the Turkish boat harbour Akyarlar from Kos. With a fast boat, you're in Greece in the blink of an eye.
Con spoke with the Kos Port Authorities and was told, "If you come across a boat-full of refugees in distress, you must offer assistance. If they are not in distress, DO NOT GO NEAR THEM." He told Con that they process at least a hundred a day, but those are the ones who come to the police station to be processed. Many carry on via ferry or other means to other locations and are never processed. Most have about three to four thousand euro each with them. The Port Authorities do not see an end to the migration because of the ongoing military conflict. At this point, the EU puts them up in hotels and feeds them until they are transported to Athens and then to other countries that accept them. Nobody is turned away. The refugee's fear is that the Turkish Coast Guard will catch them and return them to their country. That doesn't appear to be a risk at all. From our knowledge of the Turkish Coast Guards, they know EXACTLY where you are all the time. The EU announced two days ago that they had a three-point plan to stop refugees, #1 was the destroy the trafficking boats. That won't happen. It's a real crisis, and it's happening in our lifetime and right in front of our eyes.
April 28 -- Leros to Fournoi ahead of the big blow
We couldn't be in a cuter, cozier little town than Fournoi to ride out the Force 7 (30 - 40 knots) winds. Fournoi is tucked into a bay surrounded by tall hills keeping the winds away from the town. Fournoi is a tiny fishing village, the most active fishing fleet in the East Aegean. The main street (below) is lined with mulberry trees and connect the quay to the town square where an ancient sarcophagus sits between two cafes. We walked up the main street and around the tiny village.
April 30 -- Sailing to and around Chios
Yesterday was one of those "perfect" sailing days. We woke to expected calm seas and slight winds and took our departure from quay on the island of Fournoi after tying there for two days to escape the big winds. Almost immediately we set the sails and before we could say, "Well, look at that," our GPS told us we were flying at 7 and 7.5 knots under sail. It was comfy and warm in the cockpit, so much so, I put on my bathing suit for the first time of the season and read in the semi shade of the cockpit. Eight hours later, we dropped our bow anchor "Bruce" and backed up to the quay in the busy town of Chios. This is never a quick job for us. Always reliable Bruce held on the first drop, but lassoing the yellow medal thing ashore with our stern lines is always a challenge. Many people chose to watch, but nobody volunteered to catch a line. Nevertheless, we backed up, lowered the gate, I jumped ashore and got the task done. Then it's the big job of positioning the Passarella (gang plank) and tying on the handrails, attaching the whole works to the halyard, positioning it centre so it won't run away sideways, tying the blue flat fender to the stern... You get the gist, it's always a big job. So, an eight-hour sail became a 10-hour day. Finally we settled and celebrated with a home-made ice-cold cappuccino frappe.
Chios' Gruesome History
Following 250 years of Ottoman rule, the Chians joined the Independence uprising in Greece in 1822. The Sultan was enraged and sent an expedition that massacred 30,000 Chians, enslaved twice that number and then destroyed the monasteries and houses. The island of Chios has 20 settlements in the south known for their medieval product, "Mastic Production" from the Mastic bush. It secretes a resin or gum that before oil and gas was the product used for paint, cosmetics and medicine. Today, it's used for gum, liqueur and toothpaste. They harvest the bark by separating crystals that become the marketed product.
May 2, 2015 -- Touring the island of Chios
Albertine arrived from the Netherlands, via Turkey and ferry across to Chios. In a rental we're exploring the region. The Mastic village of Pyri white wash the buildings and then scrape off the paint for the unique designs only seen in this town. We visited the three Mastic villages. The villages are built with strong fortification towers and houses to protect the product from pirates. The strong outer walls are similar to Arabic medinas -- activity inside; few windows facing out. We visited the Nea Moni monetary hidden in the pine forest, dating back to the 11th century, above.
May 4 – Motor-Sailing to the island of Lesvos
We motored to the lovely island of Lesvos, passing dolphins along the way. Our cost for the night, including good drinking water Con calls, "Angel pee", electricity, and WiFi: 5.80 euro.
May 5 -- On to Limnos
Three attempts to secure ourselves in Sigri. Try 1: Full with fishing boats. Try 2: Along a concrete wall. The weather was calm and with the slight wind we'd stay off the wall. Once tied and relaxing, the coast guard came to our window, "You must leave, the navy ship was coming". Try 3: We anchored in a beautiful bay which turned out to be the best spot of all.
May 8 -- Sailing to Northern Greece "The Fingers"
Few cruisers travel to "The Fingers" preferring the turquoise waters, but there's lots to be said about the north. Fabulous anchorages, grandest scenery, green dense pine forests, mountains, and fine sandy beaches. It's more Balkan than Mediterranean, situated under Macedonia. The first finger, Mt. Athos, is populated by thousands of monks, ABSOLUTELY NO FEMALES ALLOWED, INCLUDING FEMALE ANIMALS -- CHICKENS ARE ACCEPTABLE.... The forested "finger" is populated by jackals, wild cats, boar, deer, wolves, monks, and marshes. It's a birder's paradise. In a rental, we saw Limnos in a spectacular way, from the hillsides and tiny villages, and tasted the authentic island foods, like the wild rooster with homemade pasta, and rabbit for Con. Dessert was placed on our table whether we wanted it or not, a sweet plum drowning in honey and cinnamon followed by a deep fried ball of delicious dough, dripping in herbal honey from the region and cinnamon. We nearly licked the dish it came on. Limnos is butterfly shaped situated in the middle of the Aegean away from other island groups, but what a treasure and worth the trip. Armed with a list of island sights, most of which were closed (we learned after driving to them) we did see Winston Churchill's house from the street. He was based there for the Gallipoli campaign in WWI. Today, it's privately owned by the French Consulate. We drove on to Nea Koutali to see the maritime museum -- closed. Instead we stopped at the seaside for a Freddo Cappuccino and then carried on to Kotsinas, where the church of Zoodochos sits on a hill. Forty-five steps underwater you can taste the holy water. The entrance to the stairs leading to the special place was closed. This statue of the heroine of Limnos is beside the little church. After our authentic Limnos lunch, we drove to the mini Sahara Desert.
May 10, 2015 -- Sailing the three fingers
The "finger" called Mt. Athos, populated by thousands of monks, nearly 2,000 of them. We entered the fingers sailing up the western side of the east finger., staying "by law" 500 meters from shore; God forbid they cast their eyes on women. These pictures are just a few of the many scattered monk houses we could see from the sea, scattered helter skelter on the rocks sometimes up to the top of the mountainous hillsides. In 1060, the emperor forbid access to the holy mountain to females more evolved than a chicken. An exception was made for female cats though to keep the rodent population down.
Since Greece is part of Schengen (which abolishes border controls) many women have tried to gate crash, and all attempts have failed even when taken to court. We spent the night in a small harbour in the intersection of the east finger and the middle finger. Continuing along the middle finger, we enjoyed the beautiful lush green vegetation and beautiful seas, except at the "fingernails" the sea becomes somewhat agitated.
In Port Koufo, we celebrated Nick's birthday (our daughter) and Mother's Day at a wonderful fish restaurant. We selected a bass and Red Snapper -- delicious! Along with a few well-prepared appetizers. We motored down the first finger, around the rolling sea at the fingernail to Sani Marina. It's 80 euro a night and came with four t-shirts, and a couple of interesting magazines. Since collecting Albertine a week ago, we've paid about 4 euro in moorings, so who's complaining.
May 17 – On a Road Trip
Con and I set off this morning for Meteora (between Kastraki and Kalabaka) where the forest valley rises vertically becoming enormous stones, reaching 300 meters and at the top, monks as early as the 11th century began building monasteries, perching them on those skinny structures right to the rock's edge. We climbed to the top of the largest one -- 300 steps. There are six working monasteries remaining. The idea of living on the top of such a precipitous is beyond my comprehension, but climbing the rocks for sport -- well, I don't even have words.
You can barely see the climbers above. Look at the picture below where I zoomed in. The monastery was used in the James Bond movie: For Your Eyes Only. .
May 18 -- A drive on the wild side
Today's road trip took us deep into the Pindos Mountains where the roads hung onto the hillsides by a prayer, and in fact, we could have used a monk or priest for a prayer or two where the road simply disappeared. We realize now why we seemed to be the only car on the road for hours / kilometers. The photo below was taken from the other side of the curve.
We were traveling about 60 KPH when Con swerved wildly into the oncoming lane to avoid falling down a washed away/or swept away piece of the road. The rope-like thing is the side rail, and the triangle in the water is our side of the road! Further along is another part of the highway now in the river. The mountain is a sandy unstable structure.
All day, we encountered sunken pieces of road and boulders hanging over the roadside just waiting for a sneeze. Many washed away / swept away parts along the highway. Nevertheless, it was beautiful! Albania was just over the mountain and having traveled there a few years ago by car, this road was VERY similar to the experiences we had driving there. We detoured to investigate an ancient stone bridge over the Aoos River which took our breath away with its simple pristine beauty. (That's me on top.) We circled around the bridge to the town of Konitsa, parking in front of a coffee shop for a Freddo Cappuccino. We had just taken a seat when two officers appeared looking for the owner of the "rental" car. They pulled out their ticket book, scanned the area and then spotted us, smiled, and in sign language asked us to, "Park down the hill and enjoy the town." We did.
May 20 -- Northwest Macedonia
Surviving some of the scariest roads, we broke out of the forest, rounded a bend and our eyes took in one of the most picturesque mountain towns in Greece called Kastoria. It's situated on a peninsula. We left our hotel and walked to the opposite side of the peninsula, passing about 10 of the 54 Byzantine medieval churches! Following the water's edge around the bulbous point, not realizing until we finally reached the other side again, that it was a 7.5 kilometer hike!
In the morning, we set our GPS route to take us to the intersection where Albania, Macedonia, and Greece meet at the Prespa Lake. The lakes (two of them) are extraordinary breeding grounds for bird life. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to take a 1.5 hours tour on the lake to observe the two endangered species of pelicans and pygmy cormorants. The lake is the oldest fresh water lake in Europe. Our fisherman/guide showed us frescos painted on the rocks from Byzantine times, and three churches built deep in rock caves, two of which we stopped at the water's edge so Con and I could climb up to them.
May 21 -- Edessa to Pella and back to Big Sky
Driving through the lush northern Greek countryside, your life is in the hands of others! Driving cautiously, within the speed limits, in the correct lane, Con veered plenty of times as drivers skimmed passed (down the centre of the traffic doing twice the speed limit) expertly missing our driver's-side mirror by a hair. Often drivers use the CENTRE of the two-lane traffic with a disregard for the lines. For a country practicing austerity, they could have saved time and money not bothering to paint them. We were less anxious driving on the empty road ways, eyes pinned ahead in anticipation of mountain slides and rocks, and dodging bears and fox (the latter we did).
Our last night was spent in Edessa, the town of water. Once a busy textile centre, now it's lush fertile plains. Con is the middle of the water park at the top of the waterfall. We went into the cave under the waterfall to view the fantastic stalagmites. The neighbouring town of Pella, once the home of Alexander the Great, is one of northern Greece's archeology treasures. We spent the afternoon walking in the ruins and around the museum. We especially enjoyed watching the Greek students learning about their rich Greek history and brave colourful past. Now back aboard, we'll repack tonight for Canada where we’re returning for an operation Con must have to remove his thyroid.
May 22 - June 26 -- To Canada and back to Northern Greece
Our trip back to Canada early spring consisted of the usual things: visiting family, completing our taxes, and medical checkups. Our wonderful doctor (Dr. Weir) convinced Con to have another biopsy on a lump in his thyroid. The last one was in 2005. A few days later, she called to say it didn't look good. We were hustled into see a thyroid cancer specialist, who suggested odds as high as 90 percent that it was malignant. We were then scurried over to a surgeon who booked Con in June 4th for removal of his thyroid. We are positive people and are focusing on fixing Con and getting on with our lives. A week following Con's operation, the surgeon said with a big smile, "Con, I didn't think it was so good for you. You had an 80 percent chance it was malignant, 20 percent benign. It was benign. I don't need to see you again." Con will take hormone pills for the rest of his life, but other than timing his latte his morning (can't have dairy products within 30 minutes of the hormone pill) his life hasn't been affected. Besides the operation and necessary recovery, our days in Canada were filled with enjoyable yet exhausting play again with our four grand kids. Hailey and Dex best buddy-cousins, playing their hearts out when they're together; forever smiling Katelyn; and our rough and tumble Nolan. We spread our time between Calgary, Red Deer, and Carrot River.
June 27 – Back in Greece: Bank Machines are being emptied
History is unfolding around us in Greece. Last night, the newly elected Prime Minister announced Greece will not make the payment on June 30th and instead will take it to a referendum in 10 days. (It's like putting the default decision on the backs of the Greek people.) The moment the broadcast was finished, the lineup began at the instant tellers. Today, we cued in a long line for cash. Many machines were already empty. Billions of dollars are being sucked out of the machines in preparation of the default. We checked out of the marina in Thessaloniki this afternoon and payment was to be in cash! We'll drop anchor at the bottom of the middle finger tomorrow and enjoy the summer as chaos erupts. Despite Greece's tribulations, yesterday, walking through the lovely shopping area of Thessaloniki, Kalamaria, we bought bread and other little things that came to 2.70 euro the proprietor GAVE us two ice cream cones. That is the Greek way. I found a great place to have my hair cut and highlights. Even with the nasty currency exchange, the cost is nearly half what I pay in Canada. It's time to get on with summer here in the Greek fingers (Northern Greece). Cooler weather has wrapped itself around this beautiful area of Greece. Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn, we will set sail to the middle finger to drop anchor and wait for the warm Greek sun to warm the sea. I'm getting my mask and snorkel out in anticipation!
June 30 -- Currently under sail to Neos Marmaras
A gentle 11 knots beam breeze is carrying us at 6 knots to Neo Marmaras -- across the water from the first (west) finger to the middle finger. Once we lifted the anchor, three storm cells surrounded us with plenty of thunder and lightning bolts. We tied easily at the "pirate ship's" spot, but we were told we will be okay for the day and will have to move to the "Glass Bottom" boat's spot once he departs. It's a game of Musical Boats. A stage is under construction for a multi-cultural concert tonight. The stage is two meters from our bow. Two Days on the anchor in a delightful bay left plenty of play time in the water. No jellyfish! Along with almost every Greek person and tourist, we're lining up at ATM's again as the country sits on the edge of the bankruptcy precipice.
July 2 -- Two fabulous days in Neos Marmaras
We sailed into the delightful town of Neos Marmaras thinking we'd stay one night, but it grew on us. A two-day cultural show scheduled for 8 pm was to take place on the pier. By 7 pm, hundreds of tourists, mostly eastern European (Bulgarians, Serbians, Macedonians, Russians...) sauntered up and down the pier, and most of them stopped take peek in our windows and take pictures of themselves with Big Sky and our Canadian flag in the background. One eager tourist stepped over the rail and onto our bow so her friend could take pictures of her aboard Big Sky! Our two days of Musical Boats (because there was one too many boats for tie-up spots) came to an end. Warning: if you visit Neos Marmaras, avoid the 1 meter shallow on the end of the left side of the pier. Power and water was free and we simply step over our rails and we were in the town. The Musical Boats was like this: Tie onto the right side of the pier, but leave before 4 pm for the pirate ship; relocate back to end of pier at 3:15 when the Glass Bottom boat leaves, and move again in the morning before 1 pm when the Glass Bottom boat arrives again. We moved seven times! On the second day, an unexpected pirate ship was arriving "in 15 minutes" so we hustled off the pier again. We tied onto the concrete breakwater, but "...just for two hours, then the pirate ship leaves and you come back, okay." Two hours later we were honked and waved at to return. The Greek captains (ferry boats, tour boats, pirate ships and glass bottom boat) made us feel extremely welcome. A big market was underway the morning we were leaving, so we filled the boat with fresh fruits and a beautiful basil plant for 2.50 euro.
July 4 -- Summertime and Anchoring -- it's the best!
Slight north winds would blow from time to time, but we were perfectly protected in our beautiful bay. We dropped anchor on the opposite side of the bay where the summer camps were underway. As soon as it hit the sandy bottom, Con spotted air bubbles! You can imagine our shock. I immediately cut the engine. TWO DIVERS, WITHOUT MARKERS were swimming in the area and when the anchor hit bottom, they swam UNDER our boat! It was a dangerous situation for everybody. Since our anchor wasn't set and we couldn't use the engine, we could have drifted into the coral. We waited and waited, and finally, they swam out from underneath. Later, Con paddled over to them in the dingy to chat with them about the necessity of diving with a flag or marker. They said, "Okay, sorry." They dove again later that day with a marker. On our third day, we set off for yet another anchorage as we scout the area for potential visits later this summer with our family when they visit. The area is lush and green, pleasantly cooler in the evenings.
July 6 -- "No" was voted in by the Greek people
It's a crazy time in Greece. Most banks are empty of euros and if an ATM has money to dispense, there's a long wait. Greeks are limited to withdrawing 60 euros per day (tourists more). The YES/NO vote has been a long soap opera featuring the new Greek PM against the EU, IMF, and loaning countries as Greece defaulted on their loan. The (what some might have called a reasonable offer) was rejected by the PM last Tuesday and he called a vote for yesterday on what was no longer sitting on the table for negotiations. Greece voted, "No". Now, we wait to see if anyone joins the PM in Brussels where he says he is heading to begin new negotiations -- minus his finance minister who resigned today, actually he was asked by EU members not to be involved. He called them terrorists last week, which was a really dumb, since we know what real terrorists are doing to our beautiful world. So... another chapter now unfolds for their Greek history books. At anchor in the quiet harbour of Kaliva on the island of Thasos, three excavators have just stopped working and sit on the marble breakwater wall, we believe because there is no more money to pay them. They are in the background behind Con and behind Big Sky. The island of Thasos is rich in mineral deposits, specifically marble. We're circling the island, enjoying the beaches and small towns. The area is populated by eastern Europeans on vacation: Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbians, Albanians, and Czechs. We know because they've arrived by car and we see the country on their license plates.
July 8 -- Remembering Larry Radu's passing, 14 years ago today. A beautiful soul, taken too soon.
July 9 (am)-- On the move again from our island anchorages, we're crossing the Aegean to the mainland. Our last few days on the hook we've watched the countryside and pondered the Greek crisis and how they will find their way out. Billions of euros have left Greece in the hopes of securing personal investments. Our emotions are wrapped around the innocent whom we see every day. The women dressed in black (widows) and pensioners have been targeted and the debt will be repaid in part by stepping on their backs. We anticipate Thursday's announcement will state rollbacks to their monthly stipend. Money is running out in Greece, not just empty ATMs but at the grocery store there was an awkward inability to make proper change with coin shortages. Speaking with a man in his 40s the other day, he expressed his relief that the Greek's voted NO believing his government would go back to Brussels with more leverage. Speaking with family in Holland, they are tired of their taxes increasing, their pension age going up, in part to keep Greece afloat. The Greek man said, "I am a good Greek. I work two jobs and pay my taxes which is 60 percent of my salary. I don't steal, cheat or rob people, Greek people don't do that. When I see people in need, like two hitchhikers from another country with no food, I pick them up, take them home, feed them what my family eats, house them, and send them on their way. We are simple living people and want a good life for our kids and for the Greek people." It is with deep emotion that we ponder it all and wait impatiently to hear what will come next.
July 9 (pm)-- In the town of Porto Lago for the night
Sailing away from Thasos we crossed the North Aegean, entered the swampy waters arriving in the ghost town of Porto Lago. Somewhat of a bird haven. This guy (grey herron) nearly landed on our rail, choosing the quay behind our boat. Once a busy harbour, exporting wheat by ships, now it's filled with empty buildings. We enjoyed a fish meal in the restaurant in front of Big Sky, and asked the waiter, "Where is everybody?" He responded, "Ever since the Greek crisis began years ago, the town vacated." Our stay at the quay was 7 euro, including electricity and water. The customs man handed Con the bill, "You must pay at the bank, but we don't know when the banks will open." News reports we're following tell us if talks with the EU go well this week, they MAY open next week. "Pay at your next town," the agent said casually. We joined a French couple, perhaps the only other tourists in town, for drinks aboard their sailboat.
July 11 -- Enroute to Thasos
Between the mainland and the island of Thasos, I'm able to get internet through our WIND carrier, however it’s not a great provider up here. Today, the Greek people wait patiently for their PM's and the EU's next move. They voted NO to the referendum and the PM has now done the complete opposite and in fact offered more concessions to the EU than the original plan he rejected. Either he's a really naive person, a super-bad gambler, or more cunning than we all think. While the banks have been closed, quite possibly their switching out the euro for drachmas. Time will tell. The EU will give their approval or rejection today and Greece will be expected to make another payment July 20th. In their current proposal, they're asking for 53 billion additional euro, much of which will become their next payment.
The sea is calm, winds slight, temps in the 30s, water nearly the same. Next stop: town of Thasos on the island of Thasos. This island was thriving in the Roman times with a strong seafaring empire, around 400 BC. Since then it's survived on its mineral deposits of delicate white marble. Quarries scar the countryside here and there, but as for the rest, it's covered in the healthiest pine forests you can imagine. We climbed the hillside to the Roman ruins for a bird's eye view of the harbour.
July 15 -- Thasos Island back to the mainland
After a few nights at anchor we needed to charge up our boat batteries and set off for Kavala in the Macedonian province of Northern Greece, the second largest city in Macedonia -- Thessaloniki the largest. We hiked up to the top of the Kavala Castle this morning. We’re stocking up with non-perishables in the event that Greece implodes, Kavala was a good provider. Each morning, we reach for our iPads for the next development in the Greek financial crisis.
As a quick snapshot: Just January, Tsipras, a radical left (near communist party) leader was swept in as PM promising the Greek people dignity and to cut the austerity programs, along with the repayment plan of the then 240 billion euro debt to the EU and IMF. He promised to create 300,000 new jobs, raise minimum wage, Christmas bonuses to pensioners, free medical care to unemployed, and to protect people from losing their property if they missed mortgage payments. The only stumbling block was that Greece was broke than and has fallen further into disaster. Tsipras' plan was to have the rest of Europe pay with yet another EU bail-out. Fast forward to July. Tsipras failed to make repayments to the EU, they negotiated a new payment plan along with austerity measures. Tsipras said, "No." The offer expired. He took the expired offer to the Greek people in a referendum vote. They voted "NO" to any further austerity measures and repayments. Greek banks closed. People were allowed only 60 euro withdraw per day which quickly turned into 50 when the banks ran out of 20s. Tsipras returned to Brussels the day after the election without a plan. The EU told him they would no longer work with the Greek Finance Minister after he called them "worse than terrorists". Greece's GDP rating fell and is still falling, small businesses are closing their doors to bankruptcy, shelves in stores are getting skimpier by the day, tourism (number one industry) dropped significantly, and the banks are nearly empty. Now, Tsipras has approved a plan which cuts deeper than the original one a few weeks ago. The biggest catch: Some EU members won't support Greece further, and the EU is asking for a representative from the EU to oversee that the plan is carried out, provided it's passed. Here's the really confusing part. The Greek are building up resentment against Germans and we witness it both verbally and on social media. A retailer two days ago shared with us, "Oh yes, very bad for the Greek people, it's because of Germany! They want us to be one country." We read that many are calling this a "Bank coup" on Greece. The oddest part of it all is that Greece is broke. It was broke when they borrowed the money from the EU and IMF seven years ago, and they still refuse austerity measures asking for more bailout money. Something is screwy with the propaganda and messaging that the Greek people are blaming the banks and German politics for their past government's mismanagement of their money. Greek people debating this crisis is a popular past time. On another note, don’t hesitate to visit Greece for a holiday (even Germans). There are no riots, people are kind and still overly generous.
July 16-20 What happened?
We left the island of Thasos, the island with the worst internet access in northern Greece, having checked as best we could the weather forecast. The sea was calm, despite a nasty meltimi blowing south of us and on down the Aegean. Our day was an anticipated 10 hours + on the water. About a third of the way into our trip the sea waves were building up to two and three meters and coming at us forward and portside. I'd battened down the hatches and secured anything that could fall. One big ugly wave hit us with a bang, and our vacuum cleaner fell from the top bunk, and various decorative items came down with one hard crash. Lemons were everywhere. Kettle water was awash over the kitchen counter. With one hand holding tight to the boat, I used the other to scoop up everything and tuck them wherever I could. Once anchored I checked for damage. A basket tucked tight into the back of our fridge holding various jars somehow flipped completely over! As we neared Mt. Athos, we had 45 knots pushing us (sails down) from the stern which we believed was partially from the wind rushing down the mountain and likely part of the meltimi. Not for the faint of heart! Mid-afternoon, we reached paradise, dropped anchor near our friends Judy and Bruno aboard Pacific Pearl (white sailboat pictured above) and enjoyed a cold glass of wine and snacks together. Behind them is the catamaran Nimrod and behind us (not pictured) is Ron Glas. We all wintered together in Marina di Ragusa three winters ago. The mayor of Thessaloniki’s summer house is directly in front of us. Properties are not cheap here. A small place just up the hill and to the left in this picture was just bought for 450,000 euro.
July 21 -- I get high just playing
With the air temperature the same as the water, we can't help but play in the water all day. I leapt from the bow spit (no dive for me) and my first jump. It’s the height of a high dive. I’m remembering how little kids swam out to our boat hoping to jump off the stern swim platform and I said, “If you want to jump, you have to do it from the bow spit.” One poor little kids was terrified, but he did it.
July 24 -- Hike to the cliff tops
Judy, Con and took our dingy to the shore and hiked to the top of the cliff for panorama shots of the beautiful area. What you can't see in the photo are our scratched up, bleeding legs from the dry shrubs.
August 2 -- Chaos hits our summer play
We had a catastrophic failure aboard Big Sky when our Victron charger/inverter petered out a few days ago. While at anchor, Big Sky uses batteries for minor electrical needs (lights) and the generator for everything else, including charging the boat's batteries. It might have been the 40+C heat in the engine room, or its seven-year-old age. Immediately, Con began calling every Victron dealer in Greece and not one unit could be located. They wouldn’t order one either because it was impossible for us to make payment in advance because of their banking crisis. Instead, Con found one in Istanbul, purchased it online, and booked a flight there and back out of Thessaloniki first thing in the morning. Judy, Con and I left before sunrise by dingy to the mainland, I drove the 1.5 hour journey to the Thessaloniki airport in a rented car, and wished Con good luck. Judy and I shopped the entire day, having an absolute blast, then returned to the airport to hopefully collect Con at 8 pm. Con arrived in Istanbul, had to purchase a CND$70 Visa, taxied to the shop, collected the unit and returned to the airport to await for his 6:30 pm return flight. We spotted Con walking with the heavy bundle toward the exit door and then saw the very stern Greek Customs Agent from hell stop him. Two hours later, he had two options: 1. Leave the unit until Monday so they could make an official ruling, or 2. pay an obscene amount of euros on the spot. Con refused both and the agent wouldn’t budge. Another much friendlier agent arrived. She asked Con if he'd pay half the amount. He agreed. By midnight, Bruno collected us from the shore in his hard-bottomed dingy and we loaded it up with all our heavy bags and the heavier Victron and shot across the water, guided by the full moon to our anchorage. Bruno, a French chef prepared a delicious meal for us and we finally relaxed taking in the warm evening air under the moon and stars. It was a fabulous way to end a stress-filled day. Three hours later, at 5 am, Con slipped out of bed to begin installing the unit. Everything was going well until the last stubborn screw. It was stripped. Our wonderful anchorage is populated by friends we've known over the years, and as they began to rise, Con rowed motored to them to borrow various pieces of equipment. Five sweaty chaotic hours later, we were basking in air conditioning with a load of laundry turning in our machine on a temporary hook up. The next morning, Con removed the offending screw with brute force and an hour later, we were well submerged in the 29-degree sea water with the new Victron mounted on the engine-room wall. To quote Bob Dylan: "Chaos is a friend of mine."
It should be Con relaxing in our new swing chair!
August 4 -- On the move... and back again
After nearly three weeks on the anchor in our beautiful bay, we said "good bye" to our friends and left for Prygadikia, the pretty town at the top of the second and third finger to check out the ice cream situation for our potential return when Dex, our six-year-old grandson. It does. And Octopus. And melons and other provisions. We arrived in Prygadikia on 12-15 knot winds doing 6-7 knots on the beam. Departing from the pier above was interesting as Con untied our last line the wind blew Big Sky too far for him to climb aboard. I motored to the second pontoon steering the bow directly into the pier and he managed to get aboard with an enormous leap of faith just as I cranked her starboard to miss the power boat in front. Later that afternoon, we dropped anchor in Ouranoupolis (behind another island) with a current holding us steady north. Good thing since there were shallows all around. We intended to settle there for the night until we learned that Judy (at the bay we just left) has an eye infection. Just as the sun was setting, we motored across the water (just over two hours) to deliver antibiotic eye drops. The medicine came to 2.11 euro, compared to $15 Canadian. What is not to love in Greece! We'll drop anchor and leave again first thing in the morning to head around the finger to Nikiti, getting us closer to our rendezvous point with the kids.
August 6 -- Stormy night AND dredging Koufo with Bruce
Last night, we were warned by John and Niki (locals) that a storm may arrive early evening. The few boats at anchor took down our sun tarps, let out more anchor, and waited. Sure enough it came! First lightning appeared in the south, then in the southeast, and then in the north. Lightning bolt behind Pacific Pearl in the rain. All three systems circled us and at one point we clocked 49 knot wind gusts on our meter. Rain came down in sheets washing the boat. It was over within the hour. First thing in the morning, we left for Koufo, dropped our Bruce anchor deep in the pretty harbour, rowed in for lunch, and once aboard again attempted to lift Bruce for a new destination. When we'd pulled in thirty meters, the remaining 20 wouldn't budge. Wind picked up and dragged Big Sky across the bay nearly sideswiping a small sailboat. I drove Big Sky across the bay as near as we could to the beach seeking shallows, so we could dive down to it. With a few meters left of beach, it was still 20 meters deep! What a sight for the folks at the beach. Con now behind the wheel, drove toward the fishing boats, dragging this mess with us as I tried gingerly to lift it with the "anchor up" button. It began to cooperate and this surfaced. The anchor was hooked on a chain or long rope or both and wrapped in netting. Con jumped into the dingy, cut off the netting. I dropped a rope attached to our cleat, Con strung it under the mess, and I attached the other end of the rope onto the cleat, lowered Bruce and it was free. Unfortunately, the mess is now back in the bay awaiting the next innocent victim. Be warned.
August 11 -- They've Arrived!
It was touch and go whether we'd have the car to collect our daughter Nick, fiancé Bryant, and nearly 7-year-old Dex from the airport, one hour away from Nikiti, where we left Big Sky. The car rental representative said (via Skype), "Yes! You do NOT have a confirmation; NO! it IS available." We showed up at 9 am and once the rep (using his mouth) siphoned out the remaining gas (cars are rented with enough fumes to get you to a service station) we were off. Reuniting with our family is the greatest high for us. Dex ran to us hugging, smiling, talking. He's a happy kid. As soon as we entered Big Sky, and Dex checked out his goodies in the top bunk, we set off to the beach. Two nights ago, we sailed into Neos Marmara, a pretty town on the west side of the second finger with an enjoyable touristy atmosphere. We greeted our Pirate Captain friend again, as this is our second visit there. (Remember, this is the place where we played Musical Boats.) "Where are you sailing next, "Crete?" The Pirate Captain asked. (Crete is about 350 NM or 60 hours from here -- the furthest Greek point from where we are.)
"No," Con said, "Nikiti" (about 10 NM away).
"Nikiti!" he shouted and scratched his head looking over our boat. "Why would you go to Nikiti?"
Later that afternoon Con checked our engine which has been responding sluggishly. "Turn on the engine," Con shouted from his seat in the engine room as he attempted to investigate the problem. Once I did, sea water spewed out at him through a crack in the hose. The heat is a difficult nemesis for Big Sky. Unfortunately, the engine was still not quite right. We'll hire a diver to clean the prop at some point.
August 16 -- The Monks Got Us!
Deciding a long day on the water was in store, we motored from our beautiful beach anchorage to the tip of Mt. Athos (the eastern finger -- the forbidden finger) to let our guests enjoy the monasteries. Upon arrival, all hell broke loose. The international law states "No one is allowed any closer than 500 meters to the shoreline" and that "WOMEN and any female creatures more evolved that a chicken are strictly forbidden." The finger is populated by monks and God forbid their eyes rest upon a women. Con was motoring 150 meters from shore and within a blink on an eye, the police were beside us, "Captain, stop your boat!" Con turned Big Sky off and the police explained with a stern faces that we were breaking "international law" and must leave immediately. Con apologized and attempted to start Big Sky. It didn't turn over! While Nick and Con went into the engine room, Bryant and I set the sails and luckily, we had enough breeze to take us away from Mt. Athos. We were managing a slow toward the Diaporos anchorage to join a group of friends at anchor. About three quarters of the way across the water, (between the fingers) the wind completely died and Big Sky laid ahull. (Mt. Athos in the background.) To entertain us on our long 12-hours adventure, dozens of tuna jumped high in the air, and dolphins visited at our bow. We shared our disaster news with Judy via email and Bruno immediately went by dingy to the mainland to book a mechanic for Monday. Meanwhile, Con, Nick and Bryant continued to analyze the problem in the 40 degree engine room. Dex played on his iPad and I researched on the internet "diesel mechanics" making Skype calls. This weekend is the busiest and biggest Greek holiday of the year and no one was available. Big Sky just bobbed in a circle closing in on the rocks. With no engine and no wind we were prone. Judy’s email arrived: “Pacific Pearl to the rescue!”
Judy and Bruno managed a magnificent tow which lasted a few hours, averaging 3 knots gently and safely towing us through the Archipelago. The tow began at sundown and the anchoring was done in complete darkness. Bruno’s excellent skills placed us perfectly over a safe area, we dropped Bruce, we untied from our bow and reattached us at our stern to pull us backward setting the anchor. It was a perfect maneuver. As a thank you, we invited all the people in our cozy anchorage (Judy, Bruno, Sally, Tony, Simon, Lorna and the five of us) to help us celebrate our 11th anniversary in a restaurant across the water.
August 21 -- Tough Saying "Good bye"
Big Sky's fun-filled "kowabunga" energy has departed along with mommy Nick and fiancé Bryant for their flights back to Canada. On our last night together, we took the dingy to the campground for dinner. It was a rare moment for Dex to be wearing clothes, albeit, underwear. Once we got to the Diaporos anchorage Dex discovered that the mayor of an (unnamed large city) never wore clothes while at his cottage, situated just behind us. From that moment on, Dex became "The Naked Mayor" aboard Big Sky.
Our saga "No Engine" continues...
Almost immediately following our excellent tow to Diaporos by friends Judy and Bruno, the mechanic arrived a few days later following the Greek long weekend. The campground is across the water on the mainland. Con collected Gerry, the mechanic along with his heavy tools and brought him back to Big Sky.
It turned out to be the fuel pump that had caused us the grief, which was extracted and sent to a repair shop. Components are being air freighted from Germany in order to rebuild it. Gerry promised to return the moment the pump is back in working order – a few days? It's a bit of a precarious situation aboard, as we're down to our last tank of water leaving us about 600 liters. Our trusty generator runs three times a day for about an hour each time to keep our batteries charged so we can have refrigeration, lights, and to flush the toilets. In our nine years aboard, we've never been in such a situation, where we are literally "anchored" to this spot.
Big winds will arrive tonight expected to blow 30 knots. "Bruce" our 50 kilogram anchor will keep us pinned to the spot. Pacific Pearl (Judy and Bruno) have assured us they will remain here until our engine runs again. It's comforting to know and humbling to have such good friends. From where we're anchored, as the crow flies, it's 5 kilometers to the other side of the island to the town or Nikiti, where in a perfect world, we will be with Big Sky by Monday to collect our next visitors, daughter Lindsey, hubby Les, and sweet nearly one-year-old Kate who will arrive Tuesday. That means we must depart here by at least Saturday, catching a bit of the meltimi winds to take us 50 NM around the finger. Cooler winds have arrived, bringing down the air temperature a bit, making sleep aboard Big Sky at night much more comfortable.
August 23 -- It's purring again
Following eight days at anchor, our engine is back up and running. Gerry, the fantastic mechanic we found online (thank you Google… the mechanic Bruno booked wasn’t available because of the holiday) couldn't have been more attentive to our needs. He responded as soon as we contacted him and drove a fair distance to the mainland launch-off point, where Con collected him by dingy and drove him the rest of the way to Big Sky. He and Con analyzed almost every component by phone so that when he arrived, the problem was pretty much known. The fuel pump. Gerry then took the fuel pump to a repair shop (after finding one that was open during the Greek holidays) and the assessment was that the head of the pump needed to be replaced. An expensive replacement and one that had to be shipped overnight from Germany. Gerry babysat the entire process for us, and the moment it was in his hands, he made the long trip back to our boat to complete the work. By 1:30 pm yesterday, we heard the familiar purrr of the engine. We were back in business. On our test drive, Bruno and Judy set off their horn and took this fun picture with Con giving the two thumbs up. Today, we left at the crack of dawn for Nikiti (50 NM around the finger) the nearly the opposite point from where we've been anchored, just 5 NM by car. Here, we will position ourselves to collect daughter Lindsey, hubby Les, and sweet one-year-old baby Kate on Tuesday.
August 27 -- Our Family Surrounds Us and we're loving it!
Our sail to Nikiti was rough. In preparation for the arrival of Lindsey, Les and toddler-grandchild Kate, we left our anchorage at the crack of dawn and made the trek around Halkidiki to Nikiti where we could once again fill up the water tanks and recharge the batteries. It was rough sailing south along the east coast and then rounding the corner put us on the lee shore for a beautiful motor-sail. Nikiti is a pretty tourist town. The harbour master speaks as much English as we do Greek -- but we communicate just fine. We're familiar visitors at this point. The V-berth suffered a confounded, mysterious leak, wetting the fresh bedding. In rough seas water spills topside and seeps in somewhere. For the life of us, we can't locate the trouble spot. With our rented car, we scooted off to the airport and collected the trio. We last saw them in June, but changes in Kate were evidenced in new words, full personality, and walking. She know us from our nearly daily video chats (Facetime) and spotting us at the airport put a gigantic smile all over her face.
Day One: off to the beach to splash in the water.
Day Two: Same as day one, but with the addition of a l-o-n-g and d-e-e-p sleep for Kate under the umbrella. I could see the envy on jet-lagged Lindsey and Les' faces. It's very hot still, but not as it was with Nick, Bryant, and Dex. The bonus was access to air conditioning while in the marina, but as soon as we turned it on, it quit! They say "bad" things come in threes. 1. Victron Inverter quit. 2. Engine quit. 3. Air Conditioning. I told Con to let that one go for now, and we'll investigate it while wintering in Cyprus. So... that oughtta be it.
September 3 -- Beach, Sun, Water, & More Engine Trouble
Well, are the monks really cursing us ? Okay, we did say a few derogatory remarks about them aboard So, “bad” things can arrive in fours. #4. Fan Belt. Lindsey, Les and baby Kate joined us aboard Big Sky in Nikiti. We left a few days later on a beautiful sail. Our destination, a couple of anchorages on the east side of the middle finger including a stop in Neo Marmaras. All perfect. Weather seemed just right, so we set off to round the tip of the finger to visit Mt. Athos and view the monasteries. Remember we had a failed attempt with Nick and family ending with a broken engine, police reprimand, and a tow... With Lindsey, Les and Kate, the sea became relentlessly miserable so we temporarily aborted the plan turning back to the centre finger to tuck into a rolly anchorage. When Les and Lindsey started turning green from sea sickness we aborted that plan and sailed further back to Diaporos, a consistently beautiful spot: deliciously warm calm waters, golden beach, and access to provisions just a dingy ride away.
After a few days, we lifted anchor aiming toward Mt. Athos -- again. Les set out the lures (for a big tuna catch) as we crossed to the water to the island of Ammouliani tying onto the pier. One bite, not a tuna, but a foot-long something, but he got away. Unfortunately, the disco was in full swing from 11 pm ending around 3 am. Morning was welcomed with our departure. The plan: sail along Mt. Athos (finger) to take in the monasteries and return to Diaporos (the beautiful anchorage). About half way through our tour of monasteries, the engine alarm went off -- the fan belt broke! Les and Con tucked into the engine room, Lindsey, Kate and I stayed topside steering the boat (no engine) away from the coast. Con had two extra belts, specifically purchased for our engine, but incredibly they were too small! He found an old belt he'd tucked away a number of years ago, put it on, and we had engine power again. With the lures back out for the big tuna, Con went below for a sleep and the sea decided to come on strong with one and two meter waves, rocking us wildly side to side. Trying to hold Kate was the most difficult part of the whole day, as she wanted to play. We filled the bathtub, put it in the centre of the cockpit and sat her in it while the sea attempted to empty it with the rocking.
Kate's taking a bath, but on a better weather day
Lindsey said, "Don't worry mom, I can endure anything for a period of time. I know it will end." It did, when we rounded the tip of the centre finger. Eventually, we motored into Nikiti and spent the rest of the day at the beach playing in the waves. We've gone full circle. Tomorrow, we drive them to their hotel to await their flight home the next morning.
September 5, 2015-- Visitors return to Canada; we sail south
Sailing around the tip of Halikidiki (second finger) up the west side tucking into Nikiti making it a long day for everybody. Kate was fantastic! The friendly Nikiti harbour master assured us last week that if we returned there would be a spot available. We motored into the marina seeing it was completely full. The sea was kicking up and Lindsey hadn't yet had her nerves return was anxious to be tied securely to land. Con had the notion that we could tie onto the swimming pier. We negotiated Big Sky through the waves toward where dozens of kids were jumping off and swimming everywhere. Once within a few meters, we aborted that idea, seeing it was too dangerous to go closer with the kids continuing to jump. Besides the depth was getting iffy. Back to the marina we went, hoping for a protected corner somewhere to anchor. Once inside the breakwater, the harbour master waved us over to the fishing pier and helped us maneuver Big Sky into a 15.1 meter spot (we've 15 meters!). Thanks to a long electrical cord and extension cord, we had power once again.
Enjoying our last full day with Kate
With our one-day car rental (from Sonja's again) we drove Lindsey, Les and Kate to their hotel near the airport. Can you believe we booked the last room and at that, it was a half a week ago -- a two-star place, but the friendly staff made up for the lack of swimming pool and other amenities. Every hotel was booked solid. Con and I took advantage of the car to buy two replacement fan belts, and stock up at "The D'Lidle" as Lindsey called it innocently. (With Con's Dutch accent pronouncing "th's" as "da's" he would say, "We're going to da Lidl." In the morning, we used the last millimeter of space and wiggled Big Sky out of the fishing spot and out into a flat sea, littered with small fishing boats. The fish were nearly jumping into the fishing boats. (Too bad Les, as he had our two lines out every chance with just one bite, but it got away.) The large lion-main-like jellyfish (I think called thimble) have arrived. It's their time of the season. Some spots are pretty thick with them.
September 9 -- Fish! Tuna! Seals! Dolphins! and Meltemi's!
Leaving the "fingers" we're enroute to the Cyclades where we plan to enjoy the "small summer" as the Greek call it, or "Indian summer" as North America’s call it. Some believe it’s call "Indian" summer because the Indians burned the prairies in the fall creating a red sky; and some believe it’s because they harvested their crops in the fall when the leaves turned red; others believe it was the heavy trade to India that took place in the fall. Nevertheless, we'll enjoy cooler weather (in the mid 20s) and hopefully by the end of September, the Meltemi's will blow themselves out. Our first day sailing south, we tucked into a beautifully protected bay surrounded by goats and one enormous yacht called "Jaguar". I woke at night, hearing something hitting the stern hull. Pointing the flashlight into the dark night waters, I was startled at the numbers of fish. Long pointed-nose eel-like fish, fish with side fins, big-mouthed fat fish gulping air, red fish, small black fish. Over my shoulder, I looked at Jaguar seeing every light on including the underwater lights on, red, yellow, blue, and white lights, like the circus had entered the bay. By morning, we continued south enjoying the water colour changing to a more brilliant blue. A sweet-looking seal poked his head out to watch us and then disappearing quickly with his unique tail slithering smoothly below the surface. Moments later, we motored through a school of tuna, leaping and making quite a ruckus in the water, attracting many gulls, and then, the dolphins arrived, maybe 30 to 40 of them. They surrounded us leaping for speed to get into position to ride the bow, squeaking and turning over to watch us. A few minutes later, the largest one cut a path across the others from our port side to starboard and took his/her leave. The others followed.
The Meltimi is blowing hard, gusting to 40 knots at times yesterday as we motor and sailed throughout our eight hours on the water. We tucked into Kastri, on the east side of the island of Evia where the water was calm, dropped anchor and enjoyed a blissfully quiet night. This morning, we braved the sea snuggly up closely to the land. It wasn't bad at all. We had up to 30 knots blowing behind us but a relatively calm sea. The white caps were a bit further out. We're happy with our decision to leave our northern anchorage a few days ago, since a stronger Meltimi will blow Sunday for a few days, and we may have been stuck there for a week. We considered heading to Athens which is about 50 NM off our route to pick up various components for the boat, since we've had a battle with Big Sky this summer with various breakdowns, but decided it can all wait until Cyprus. Our next stop is the island of Kea which will officially have us in the Cyclades Island chain, and continue to a beautiful anchorage on Kithnos to hang out while the Meltimi blows.
September 11, 2015 HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATELYN
Our smiliest grand child who is also our youngest turned one today. The happiest of birthday's to her! Con and I have been at the quay in Karystos, on the island of Evvoia or Evia for a few days, and will remain one more day waiting for the right winds to take us to Syros. They're coming tomorrow. Sunday is a different story, with the strong Meltimi arriving and quite likely staying for the week. Evia is the second largest Greek island (Crete takes the blue ribbon on size) and our last stop in the Sporades before leaving for the Cyclades chain of Greek islands. Evia is pretty and untouched by tourism for the most part. Just a few days ago, we left our anchorage believing that if we didn't extract ourselves, we'd be stuck there with strong Meltemi's blowing one after another. The winds were strong, gusting to 40 knots at times, but we sailed on with choppy confused sea, dropping anchor in a beautifully calm anchorage called, Kastri. No internet! One nautical mile further, we dropped our bow anchor and backed up to the quay in Karystos. A local whom we believe has appointed himself harbour master caught our lines and helped us with our paid electrical card. We gave him five euros. Power is somewhat sketchy, going off and on often. Some say, "That's Greece." It's a 19th century town, not the white-washed Greek style architecture, but still appealing.
September 12 -- We're delighted to welcome new son-in-law Bryant to our family. Nick and Bryant married today in a private ceremony in Banff.
September 13 -- Yesterday, we extracted ourselves from the Sporades, sailing away from the south end of Evia for the island of Syros in the Cyclades. The sea started out smooth, with gentle winds just off our stern. An hour later, the Meltimi arrived -- early -- sending us streaming over the waves at times 9 and 10 knots! (You can see the winds building above Mt. Ochi in the background above).
Con reefed the sails and we both settled into the trip listening to the VHF call out two separate May Day's. A vessel just north east of us (just out of our VHF range) was sinking (details not known). We were able to hear the coast guards transmission. They finally confirmed the location from a distressed captain, as we heard the coast guard say many times, "Calm down captain and give me your latitude."
A coast guard speed boat eventually got there and made the safe rescue of two passengers. A few moments later, we heard another May Day message as relayed by the coast guard again. A Man Overboard situation just east of Lesvos (between Greece and Turkey). In the morning, we learned that two dinghies filled with migrants overturned. The coast guard rescued 28 people, but the 29th sadly remains missing.
Our protective bay in Syros is keeping the sea relatively flat as 20 - 30 knot winds blow around us. Friends Judy and Bruno aboard Pacific Pearl dropped anchor here as well, arriving before us. We're both heading south (Pacific Pearl to Crete for the winter and us to Cyprus). Sea temperatures are still warm, 29.5 as Con checked the anchor yesterday. We tied the orange anchor ball to our anchor. Syros's white-washed houses in the background.
September 14 -- Wild Ride to Paros
We're in the middle of a Meltimi (strong winds) racing down through the Cyclades keeping plenty of boaters anchored in sheltered bays. We woke this morning to a small lull in the winds and decided we'd make another escape, believing the island of Paros is experiencing less wind. The sail was too vigorous for me! Wouldn't you know it, while under sail, a freighter was on a collision course with us. Con not wanting to risk an unsafe situation decided to pull in sails (good thing too, since it was gusting in the 40s and when I looked, 49!), centered the boom so we wouldn't jibe, and went behind. It was painful, since the freighter was barely moving! When we saw the faces on the crew at the stern, we also spotted their ANCHOR ball! Arg. (We could have maintained course.)
The sea was building, along with the winds. Once we rounded the northern tip of Paros we were able to take in our main and prepare to anchor. Many boats, and two mega yachts were at anchor, however, barely able to hold the spot, we dropped Bruce (50 KG anchor) and went inside for lunch. The Meltimi should blow for a few more days.
Best wishes to daughter Courtney on her first day in her new job, and best wishes also to Lindsey, returning to her job after a year maternity leave.
September 16 -- Wind and more wind
Surprisingly, a few boats come and go from our protected bay as the wind blows furiously outside. Gusts are reaching 30 knots. Today, we put Little Sky (dingy) into the water. Smartly we tied it to the rail and then slipped it overboard, keeping it tied securely at the bow with a long lead. Con handed me the shortened end of the painter (rope) and said, "Hold it." Before he said, "it" Little Sky burned through my finger and flipped upside down. After making a great rescue, I climbed in for weight, we lowered the engine, and set off for shore arriving completely soaked from the waves splashing over. We hiked the hills, walked through the resort, stopped for a delicious lunch, and then hiked to the top of the hill for a peek at the sea. It's nasty! Large white caps. We're not going anywhere for the next few days. It appears this will be a seven-day Meltimi.
The famous Tall Ship Sea Cloud surprised us when it entered the bay, dropping anchor behind us and in front of the pretty white-washed town of Naousa, Paros. They left at first light.
As the sun was setting, we were more surprised when an enormous catamaran anchored off our starboard side, especially when we spotted our friends, and past neighbours from Limassol, Cyprus aboard. Captain Albert, First Mate/Diver Alejandra (Sasha), and cook Monica aboard Anakin. The owners are in Kazakhstan. They had a miserable 14-hour sail from Kos. Monica had fallen the day before and found she was unable to walk, which required her to lay down the entire journey. Needless to say, the crew was famished when they arrived. That's Alejandra (Sasha) washing the boat early this morning.
On our way back to Big Sky from our land tour, we stopped at the sail boat Jad at anchor in front of us, friends of Judy and Bruno. They invited us aboard for a drink, which we kindly declined, as our boat would flip without me sitting in the front. We carried on to another neighbouring in a small sailboat, planning to sail to Israel, but they do not have internet aboard. We promised to give him a weather report in the morning, and every morning until one of the two of us leave. They also invited us aboard and for dinner, which we kindly declined there too, since again, Little Sky would flip over in these winds.
Our last stop was to Anakin, to visit our friends. Con remained in Little Sky talking with Sasha and Albert while I followed Monica aboard who filled up a bag with various foods that she says they won't be able to use before putting Anakin on the hard in Athens, their next destination. She also shared the name of an organization in Kos which is helping the thousands of migrants awaiting transport to another country. Con and I are toying with the idea of a stop there for the purpose of providing some help to the migrants.
September 17 -- Lunch with Anakin Crew
Captain Albert, of Anakin invited us to join him and his crew, Sasha and Monica for dinner in the pretty town of Naousa, but with the wind still strong, we regretfully declined not wanting to be that separated from Big Sky in this weather. Instead, we agreed a lunch at the beach would be (for us) better. They collected us in their Zodiac and we shared a few great hours ashore with them.
September 19 -- Into the pretty town of Naousa, Paros
After six days at anchor, tucked away from the strong Meltimi, which created quite an attitude in the sea, we pulled anchor and motored 1.4 NM across the bay into the marina. Hoping for electricity and water, we roared into the harbour on agitated waves, managed to dock in the cross winds, pulling the thick knotted pick-up line through the back of the boat so it rested against the back stay since through the furling was impossible. Without wrapping the line, we were secure with the big fat knot just behind our cleat.
Registering in the office, we realized this private marina which is uniquely beautiful as it was once a Venetian harbour, complete with sinking castle, is privately owned and the water and power is perhaps the most expensive in all of Greece. We passed on both. I nixed the long hot shower I'd been hoping for, since they charged 2 euro. (Okay, not much, but I was privately protesting the extra costs.) Our generator will serve us fine, and we still have about 10,000 liters of water in our tanks which should last a few more weeks.
Naousa is a pretty town "village" they call it. The marina is split into two parts: fishing boats to the left behind the Venetian castle and wall; cruisers to the right. Surrounding the harbour are hundreds of white tables waiting for customers. Octopus are draped over benches cooking in the sun. Bougainvillea plant is just at the end of this lane; prettier in person.
September 22-23 -- "The Meltimi never dies, it just sleeps." Or so the Greek say, and we believe it. I'd opened all the windows to let the air through the boat, as we'd closed them in anticipation of rain in the night, which didn't arrive until 7 am, washing Big Sky down nicely.
The sky was beautiful and blue, the sea so calm that I took a moment to peer overboard to the sea bottom hoping to spot Con's snorkel. He lost it two days ago. We'd been tucked away for the last two nights from the south winds. With our grocery list in pocket, latte in hand, nearly ready to untie the dingy from Big Sky's topsides to motor the short distance to shore, the Meltimi woke. Our taste buds had already begun to salivate for a Spinach Pie and a Cream Pie (Greek morning delicacies from the bakery), but it was not to be. Before I could say, "What the ..." the north winds began to blow, the sea immediately reacted sending white caps into our south protected bay, pushing us toward the lee shore. We immediately got into position: me at the helm, Con at the anchor. Once Bruce (anchor) was up, we motored across the bay where we'd hidden from the Meltimi last week.
The storm squall tracked north and west and within a few hours, the sun was back. We’ve moved five times in this big bay as the winds keep changing directions. The pretty white-washed town of Naousa, Paros has a wall of weather passing to the east. We threw the dingy into the calm water, mounted the engine and drove to shore enjoying freshly squeezed orange juice, then filled up our bags with fruits and other food items to hold us while at anchor in this pretty bay for a few more days. Why not? Look at the sea! Other parts of Greece (Rhodes area) received crazy wind, (50 knots in the new marina) and lots of rain yesterday. We joined Bruno & Judy, Phillip, Lulu, and Portuguese Water Dog Scuba for lunch. We're all at anchor.
September 25 -- White Sugar-Cubed Houses Dot the Cyclades Did you know, before the invention of white paint which came about after 1905 - 1915, the Greeks used asbestos to produce an almost white colour and put it on their houses. They understood the benefits of "white" making the house more heat resistant, but the asbestos was great on the houses and trees to kill bugs, and in between the rocks on the streets and sidewalks to make it more visible. When the military was in power in Greece during 1967 - 1974, for political reasons all the houses were to be painted white. Not sure why it was "political" but my guess is that the national colours are blue and white. Their flag is blue and white. The sea and sky are blue; houses are white; shutters blue; churches white; dome blue; fishing boats white; trim blue. It's a pretty strong trademark!
September 27 -- Storms around us
While tucked away in protected bays (Naousa and Irakelia) storms have been developing around us and for the most part missing us. Not so for our friends on Skopelos, when the rain flooded the streets near the harbour and this happened. Their boat was covered in run-off dirt when the harbour depths changed. In fact, a giant ice cream freezer was floating in the harbour. We moved from Paros to the island of Irakelia and dropped anchor. This island's population is less than 200 without tourists gone. It's incredibly peaceful. Birds singing. We went ashore and hiked up to some old ruins testing our feet on shaky stones as we had to create our own paths down.
September 28 -- Irakleia to Skhinousa
With storm clouds circling but not affecting us, we simply move from anchorage to anchorage depending on the direction of the winds, which have been very slight. This morning, we picked up anchor and moved across the bay from Irakleia to Skhinousa, part of a small chain of islands south of Naxos. They're beautiful! Population minimal. Our first stop was at a small harbour quay where the ferry arrives each day. A local woman kindly offered to drive me to the chora (town on the hill) for some groceries. Con stayed with the boat in case we had to move. I circled the store twice looking for something -- anything we could buy to restock our fridge. The milk was 3.5 percent fat, so I passed. I found packaged of cheese, since we were dangerously low, worthy of a Dutch-boy's panic. The lady pointed for me to walk further up the narrow road to the bakery and she waited by her car. There, I managed to buy milk, two days passed the due date, bread and a spinach pie. Back aboard, we motored into a bay protecting us from anticipated north winds.
September 30 -- Last day of September
Tomorrow is the first day for some of the island to experience 23 percent VAT (tax) as part of the austerity program the EU imposed on Greece. The islands have been benefiting with lower taxes to encourage tourism. We're okay to pay our fair share. The anticipated north Meltimi winds have arrived, with more strength expected tonight and tomorrow. Yesterday, we secured Big Sky in a very small marina on the south end of Koufonisia Island. The marina is square shaped, roughly four Big Sky's long and across. An old Greek man is in charge. He operates four fishing boats converted to tour boats which taking up a quarter of the marina. Real fishing boats take up about half the marina, leaving about a quarter of the marina for visitors.
A teenager spotted us entering and quickly untied his small wooden boat relocating it to the only spot available, using the pick-up line, he turned to us and shouted, "Go there!" Pointing to a less than okay location as it experiences surge.
We went, "there." When the old guy arrived on the scene, he moved the small boat and we repositioned ourselves into a well-protected spot. Our very-muscular Austrian neighbour aboard a catamaran said we should secure our lee side. We both nodded agreement but didn't know how since there wasn't another pick-up line.
Looking at us oddly he said, "Geeve me your line. You cannot leeve on a boat and not be diver." At that, he stripped down to a skimpy speedo, leaving nothing to the imagination, put on three-foot long flippers and dove down securing our boat with a line to the chain on the bottom.
Small village Koufonisia
The harbour master said, "Oh 15 euro for week is good." That includes power and water! We filled our water tanks, have been washing clothes and towels, comforters, all our summer stuff, baking banana bread, cooking meals... All the while, the wind is blowing 30 knots around us.
October 5-12 Astypalia to Chalki, Rhodes, then Cyprus
Count down was on, for our departure through the Dodecanese islands, including the two day (40-hour) non-stop trek to Cyprus. Weather patterns had been different this season and we needed to get to Cyprus before the strong southerlies would block our safe transit. They were forecast to arrive and were moving across the Mediterranean toward the path we would be sailing, leaving us not a lot of breathing room. This summer and fall, there were many more Meltimi's than in the past and in fact, hurricane-like conditions hit the islands a few times, missing us. Many times we had to quickly tuck into protected bays and mini-sized island protective quays.
On the way to Astypalia, two enormous dolphins joined us at the bow for a short ride, Risso Dolphins, we think, with shockingly large melon-shaped heads, and no snout. (Photo from the internet.) Arriving in the pretty Astypalia harbour, we dropped anchor in clean, clear water and backed up to the quay. For five euro, we have as much power as we use. Meltimi winds are still blowing strong. The chora (town on the cliff) sits above, giving it the distinct look. Astypalia is shaped as a butterfly and is the furthest eastern island of the Dodecanese. Leaving Kofonisia we left the Cyclades Island chain. The Dodecanese usually have a more traditional "Mediterranean" look, with the pastel-coloured houses. Astypalia still has a strong Cyclades look. The castle on the hill was once the fortification to protect the Christians from pirates. Back in the day, when Turkey controlled the islands, they collected the taxes, but left the people to fend for themselves. The town was built from the castle across the hillside and down to the harbour. This is the view from inside the castle on the hill.
In 1956, the island had a bad earthquake destroying most of the stone houses around the castle. The government decided it was too dangerous to rebuild them, even for tourism because they'd shake, rattle and fall in another earthquake in the future. The harbour and surrounding village is quiet making it a cozy stay -- at least this time of year. We remained five days as the Meltimi blew around us. Judy and Bruno arrived and sadly Judy made the decision to fly to Cairns, Australia to help her mom and Ejner and they left for Crete. On the sixth day, we left Astypalia at the crack of dawn for Chalki, dodging Greek warships. Chalki brings back great memories for us, Katelyn was born while we were visiting the island 13 months short one day to the day of our arrival. Pictured: Chalki, with the colourful houses on the Dodecanese island. The southerly's were building south of us leaving us a shortened time frame to get to Cyprus. We departed Chalki right after the bakery opened, dropping anchor near Lindos, Rhodes for a few hours sleep. At 1 am, we took our departure for Cyprus, which turned out to be a 38-hour crossing.
The weather had kicked up the sea for the first third of our journey, making the ride lumpy and uncomfortable. Luckily, about ten hours in, we were able to set sails providing the stabilizing weight. The forecasted southerly's had been moving east closing in on our path, but once again, we strategically beat them. As night moved in, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, just the stars magnified overhead with the milky way cutting a path through the centre. The first night on my watch, I spotted two bright red dots straight ahead in our path, but nothing appeared on the RADAR. Mystified, I climbed topside to investigate and saw the lights were the points of the upside-down crescent moon rising, just barely above sea level.
The second night, it didn't appear at all! On night shift I worry about what is out there that I cannot see. Our night-watch is always done inside our pilot house with the RADAR and 20-minute 360 topside scans. With my face prone in the dark, visibility zero, wind in my face, I wonder what might hit me… Well, we sure had something crash land on Big Sky! No idea what is was, but our best guess is that a bird caught an ink-filled meal and as it flew overhead the creature was releasing ink. The substance was splattered from bow to stern, including our chairs and fenders! Either that, or space debris fell over the sea and we were directly in its path.
Closing in on Cyprus, we picked up radio communications from Israel and Lebanon. At one point, it got pretty tense when a vessel was within 5 NM of Lebanon's territorial waters. Because of the tension in the area, it is mandatory for all vessels to announce themselves at 12 NM out requesting access. The Lebanese Navy called them every minute for response -- none came. We held our breath. The vessel never responded, but eventually turned away. Weather in Cyprus is hovering in the low 30s.
October 28 -- "Oxi Day" In Cyprus
Today is "Oxi Day" (No) celebrated by Greeks in Greece and Cyprus. October 28, 1940 was the day the Greek people were given the ultimatum by Mussolini telling them to allow the Italians to occupy strategic areas in Greece or be invaded. The reply: "Then this is war!" The Greeks then entered WWII and every year thereafter, on October 28th, the Greeks shout out, "Oxi!" The Italians entered Greece through the Pindus Mountains (The range between Albania and Northern Greece) and were shortly defeated by the Greeks.
October 31 -- Halloween but you'd never know it in Cyprus
As per our usual routine, we cycled around the city picking up daily groceries, pastries from Le Croissant Bakery, and what's happening at the water front. Today on the beautiful promenade, the police had an event with marching police bands, cheer leaders, games for kids, speeches and awards (in Greek). We spotted super-yacht, "A", also passed them in Sicily. It’s a Russian-owned luxury 119-meter, 6,000-tonne yacht, rumoured to have cost US$300 million in 2008. Con and I aren't too impressed with the stingray hides on the walls and ceilings and crocodile-skinned furniture. (We checked it out on You Tube)
November 15 -- Count down to Canada
Maintenance for both Big Sky and our bodies is now completed for the winter season with the help of professionals. Following our dental checkups, we visited a dermatologist to check our sun-touched bodies to ensure nothing is growing that shouldn't be there. In Canada, a similar visit is covered by our Canadian health system, however, it takes four to six months once your general doctor has approved a visit. We get four minutes each in Canada, which includes dry ice treatment. Here, we had 45 minutes each for 50 euro each, and had to return the next day for treatments. Between us, we have about 20 stitches from where bad stuff was cut , (I had one issue, Con's body looks like a war zone). Pathology has checked all our cut-off pieces and we're fine.
We rented a car to tour other areas of Cyprus, putting our well-used bikes away for now. (If we could track the kilometers our little bike tires put on, we'd be impressed.)
Tomorrow, we close up the boat for eight weeks while we enjoy family in Canada and the Netherlands.
Edro III crashed near Paphos
Edros III may be taking up real estate in this bay for a long long time. See the news article link above.
Weather in Cyprus is still registering high 20s, and the sea is filled with people enjoying the water.