The Mama Mia wedding chapel is situated at the top of this rock. A spectacular view!
Entering a shallow opening to anchor for the night.
The pretty island of Lesvos below (two videos) after we climbed up the castle.
We wintered in Messolonghi, Greece, located in the Bay of Patras just east of the Corinth Canal. Spring we sailed east and south down the Peloponnese enjoying short stops and land tours. Sailing through the Ionian Sea we arrived on Crete’s northern coast and slowly made our way to the northwest end of the island and then sailed through the Dodecanese and Cyclades islands stopping in the Athens area to greet our many special guests, including my 83-year-old mom. That fall, we sailed through the Chalki Bridge channel, through the Sporades Islands, and then attempted to check into Turkey as our allowed 90 days in 180 days was up in the EU. (We left that same day). We ended the year lifting Big Sky on the hard in Kilada on the east side of the Peloponnese. Beginning in December, we experienced an adventure of a lifetime, flying into Aleppo, Syria one month before the Syrian crisis began.
January 1, 2010 -- We woke to -40 degree weather in Carrot River, and by afternoon when the temperature rose to - 28 we ventured outside to see what Daisy (Brit, Kris, and Nolan’s dog) had been patrolling. Our task: Find the coyote den on the property. There’s a $20 bounty on them in Saskatchewan, which sounds like the Wild Wild West, but we're told, "You’re not allowed to earn more than $50,000 a year". That would be 2,500 shot coyotes! (We're not really shooting anything with those rifles.)
January 5 -- After six days in Carrot River, we began our 9 1/2 hour drive to Calgary and our grand toddlers Hailey and Dex. Temperatures are more friendly, hovering around zero.
January 15 -- Con hung Hailey's jumper in the living room and she laughed so hardy in it, we had to take her out ti calm her down for bed. She's the happiest baby and finds joy in everything and laughs loudly with a deep throaty laugh, just like Courtney used to. Her babbles will soon be sentences.
January 20 -- We said our "good bye's" to family and friends in Alberta after an awesome month together and flew to Victoria with some urgency to share our last precious moments. At this point, dad's health is failing quickly. Mom, a true angel on earth, is providing endless love and care for him. He's in a lot of pain and bravely carries on expressing his love to everyone. The cancer is eating him alive and breathing is done through tubes as the COPD is winning.
January 25 -- Dad called Con and me to his side to express his wish to end his days on earth. In a generous gesture (just like him) he asked our permission to go. It was a tender moment for us all as we expressed our love for each other. Dad was admitted to the Brentwood Bay Hospital Friday to live out his last days in the Palliative Care unit. He now has medication administered directly into his skin through a tube. We are trying to keep him comfortable by attempting to stay ahead of the pain. We all pray that his beautiful vibrant soul can lift out of his aging painful body. He is filled with love and kind words for everyone. His greatest wish is that the doctor could take him out of this world. Between Con, mom and I, we stay with him throughout the day. Mom's sad and misses him already. She walks around the house folding and refolding his clothes with such tenderness. Con spends many hours at dad's side, holding his hand or reading quietly beside him. At times, tears roll down my cheeks but I let them fall as it releases the pain from my chest. I cry for the passing of my beautiful father and I cry that he has to leave this world this way.
February 16 -- We've been reminded about the precious gift of life. My dad passed away peacefully January 28, 2010 at the age of 84. There were a number of diseases trying to get the best of him for the last few years and after a fierce battle for his health, lung cancer won. Mom was phenomenal, extraordinary truly, providing 24-hour palliative care for dad at home, gladly putting her life on hold to give him every comfort possible. In her words, "I LOVED caring for Wilfie." We had a celebration of his life February 4th, just as he'd wanted, at the Glen Meadows Golf Course club house, where he was a life-time member. Six days later, I received word that Clive Moore, our long-time friend died when infection moved into his body after a successful operation. Clive on the left, me in the middle and our friend Jim on the right. I'm flying back to Calgary from Vancouver Island where we've been spending time with mom, to attend his memorial February 19th. This sad time in our lives leaves us reflecting the joys of living life fully, fulfilling our goals, laughing and loving it -- all its precious moments.
February 22 -- I'm back in Victoria after attending Clive's funeral (he's pictured on my right). I am filled with wonderful memories of our times together (Clive & Janet) playing Name That Tune, fun dinners together, dancing up a storm at house parties and so many memories that will always live in my heart.
IN THE NETHERLANDS
February 28 -- Go Canada! Thirteen gold medals and 25 in total for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In Hillversum, Netherlands, Albertine (Con's sister) is hosting a family gathering of 12 for brunch. In just a few more days, we'll make our way to Big Sky waiting for us in Messolonghi.
BACK ON THE BOAT
March 4 -- Back aboard our condo on water following three months of living out of our suitcases. Our 12-hour trek to Big Sky began at 6:15 am with one train, one plane, two buses and a taxi. Con traversed from our neighbours boat onto Big Sky, tucked under the tarp, dropped the gang plank and we climbed aboard. There was one close call with our large suitcase nearly going overboard, but luckily we rescued it and tied it to a rope for the second try. No power on the boat but with a flashlight in hand, Con found the security guard who flipped the switch. The batteries were dreadfully low. We slept nearly 11 hours -- it was great to be in our own bed again! First thing in the morning, which was frighteningly close to siesta, we made it to town before stores closed, and on foot, walking Con's bike into the Dahon repair shop. Now repaired, we rode to the Carrefour returning with sacks full to refill our pantry and fridge. Next task: Cleaning Big Sky. The tarp had torn slighting and rain water had splashed tenderly on her topside leaving sandy mud.
March 7 -- The clean boat lasted just a few days, because it's raining again. I don't mind; it matches my mood. It's hard losing someone so dear, even though it's the cycle of life. I miss dad and the void sits heavy in my stomach.
March 8 -- The days are getting cooler instead of warmer with spring unfolding. In our sheltered lagoon, where the Messolonghi marina resides -- down a kilometre-long narrow marshy entrance -- white caps have found their way to the marina. Big Sky is rocking while gusts of 52 NM blow (96 KPH). We woke at 4 am when the wind began to sound like a freight train. All is well and things are secure. Temperatures on the boat are downright nasty -- 15 degrees inside -- and that's with the electric heaters going day and night.
March 10 -- With the wind finally easing Janis, the marina owner and his team lifted a small sailboat OVER BIG SKY’s STERN and dropped it into the water beside us. One sneeze by the crane operator and the boat would have been in our cockpit! The crane parked directly in front of us, lifted another small sailboat and it swung dangerously close to Big Sky. Janis put his full weight on the bow line and saved collision by millimeters. At one point, the sailboat nearly kissed our back stays, and the sailboat’s keel nearly hit the concrete.
March 12 -- The Patras marina, across the gulf from us sustained greater damage and higher winds and boats in their cradles fell over like dominos.
March 18 -- The sailing season has arrived, as we get ready for departure. Messolonghi has been a cozy place to snuggle up for the winter. Not a tourist town, can you believe there wasn't a post card to be found there. With warm sunshine, we washed the Sahara Desert off Big Sky. We depart in the morning. The map shows the hand-shaped Peloponnese, and Messolonghi is the red marker. We'll sail south to the tip, across to Crete, and wander through the Cyclades and Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean until June where we plan to tuck into a marina on the Peloponnese south of Athens near the knuckle of the top finger.
March 19 – Motoring out of Messolonghi in sunshine felt good, with temperatures in mid 20's. About half way to Kiliny, the wind picked up so we could sail.
March 20 -- The first day of spring; a perfect day for our sail to Katakolon, a tourist town, totally reliant on the ferry's arriving with people wanting to visit Mt. Olympus. In mythology, the ancient Greeks believed the mountain was home of the gods, presided over by Zeus. From Big Sky, docked at the quay, we can see the blue water, blue sky, a half dozen yellow and pink two-story buildings with long narrow blue shuddered windows, and a hill of lush green trees. Sitting in the sunshine at the water front sipping ice teas, we chatted with two Greek's also visiting the area from Athens. They worry about the downfall of the Greek economy. We debated life-styles, and they strategized how they could retire before the country goes bankrupt. They thought life on a boat was a good choice. Exhausted from the debate, we returned to Big Sky.
March 21 -- A lazy sail today with slight winds. Pleasurable. We spotted a huge sea turtle and one lone dolphin. The latter was much more social. He visited and talked with us for about five minutes.
March 23 -- Sailing in favourable winds, we left Katakolon for Kiparissia, no other sail boats around, either on the Ionian or in the harbours. After docking, we walked into an unassuming town and sensed excitement. One coffee bar had a large screen playing the local futball game. The energy rose further. The crowd supported the "green" team, and we selected the "red" team recognizing their goalie from the World Cup, nicknaming him, "Big Hands" -- they are! It became serious! The stadium seemed to be on fire with smoke bombs and fireworks to the point where the ref stopped the game a few times to clear the field. Big Hands stopped playing a few times in order to kick a burning missile and other debris off the field. Late in the game, the "red" team scored. The cafe crowd went nuts and fireworks shot off -- in the small town! (see video) The game wasn't even over yet! We got into the spirit hooting, pounding the table, jumping up and down, but realized WE were the only ones cheering for the "Reds". Red team won. We left quietly and to celebrate, went to the MOST POPULAR restaurant in town -- the Gyro Pit, and ordered two. They come with a generous amount of french fried shoved inside, all for about 2 euro.
Our sail to Pylos was beautiful! We entered a protected bay through the rocks and tied up against a rusty barge (the only available spot). The view sailing through the rock formation was brilliant. We motor sailed against the strong current hoping a strong gust wouldn't thrown us against the rocks.
March 27 -- Our 3 km hike paid off as we enjoyed the open air market activity. It's only open two times a week. Tables were filled with crates of recently hatched baby chicks,which will be given to the local children as an "Easter present" not expected to live much passed Easter (the chicks that is). A liter of six adorable Rottweilers puppies were being given away free. Beside the puppies a large rooster was tied by the leg to a cage stuffed with rabbits. Fresh produce was plentiful: meat, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables. A popular items going fast were the balls of intestines and goats feet. Leaving the market, two puppies remained.
March 28 -- We rented a car and invited live-aboard friends Roger and Pam to join us for a drive from Kalamata to Sparta across the mountains. The countryside was exploding in wild flowers. We visited the ancient 700-year-old Byzantine town of Mystrais, a stunning site, occupied by nuns.
March 29 -- Day two with a car, the four of us toured Ancient Messina and drove up, up, up, and when we couldn't drive any more, we got out and hiked to the top of a mountain on foot. We were on top of the world! An abandoned ancient monastery was nearly buried in wild flowers. It was an incredible day. We climbed even further, to the very top of the Byzantine fortress.
Our last day with the car, Con and I toured the southern Peloponnese winding along the glorious coast line, climbing high into the mountains, and back down into the deep gorges. By late afternoon, we reached the top of a mountain anticipating a town on the other side, but the road ended. Our gas tank was nearly empty. Asking four locals we spotted (a rarity) for a petro station, we had blank looks. They arrived by donkey and were unable to read a map. We coasted down the beautiful mountain on fumes finding a station and putting a few drops in the tank. The car is to be returned empty.
April 2 -- In a wild and crazy Good Friday evening celebration, hundreds spilled out of the Greek Orthodox Church when the bells went off and they paraded a cardboard Jesus in a flower-filled casket down the waterfront, and through the town, passing effigies of Judas. Just before Jesus (in the casket) arrived, the fireworks shot out of the bushes and streets and then Judas was set on fire. It seems that the Greek Orthodox Church is the only church we know of, that doesn't beat around the bush and squarely lays the blame for Jesus' crucifixion on Judas' shoulders. Nothing subtle about it here. Judas' effigies have been hanging on every street corner and at 9 pm they were torched by the priest.
April 5 -- While the Greek Orthodox have been in mourning over the death of Jesus, we walked the streets letting our noses lead the way. Full lambs were on the rotisserie, families were gathered, music was playing and young and old alike were Greek dancing in the streets. A sweet man about 100 stood to dance and his son joined him (mostly ready to catch him if he fell). The old man could barely move his feet, and with arms out at his sides, he slowly bent over, bringing one arm and sometimes both arms down to sweep the ground and back up, then slowly his right leg would rise and he'd sweep his heel with his right arm. All the while, the rest of the family clapped to the music. The sun is warm, but still no wind. We're waiting for anything but a south easterly wind to take us south.
April 11 -- The waters between the bottom of the Peloponnese and Crete are known for their unpredictability, with five different low pressure systems going through it. We had been studying the various weather websites for the past week and realized that finding a weather window for a three-day daylight trip would be near impossible. Safe anchorages and harbours are few and far between, each one having its own drawbacks. So, when we spotted decent winds for an overnight sail, we latched onto the opportunity. To maximize the promised winds, we left at noon for the 22-24 hour trip. The winds were correct and we averaged over 6.5 knots with a minimal time on the engine. Dodging freighters in the dark at the south end of the Peloponnese was interesting. In the dark, two hours out of our destination we found ourselves "heavily over canvased" as Con says (too much sail) in 30 knot winds (much more than predicted). Sea sickness making me useless, I managed to spot Con when he went into the cockpit to reef the sails. Turning into the wind to take the pressure off the sail, caused incredible noise with the sails flapping and waves coming over the bow. We no sooner managed that task and the winds dropped off completely, but not the massive three-meter waves.
April 12-14 -- Tied at the quay in the Khania harbour, Crete a beautiful Venetian harbour built in the 1200's, we're surrounded by aquamarine waters and a beautiful old town. Big Sky is moored on the northwest end of Crete. Today we rented a car to drive from north to the Libyan Sea in the south and west, most of the time dodging goats, who run around or lay around the secondary roads by the hundreds. We explored the steep mountains and gorges, rocky cliffs, winding our way around the paved and path-like roads. Every other curve was yet another church! At the end of the day, we stopped at the Monastery Agia Triada of Jagarolou and discovered that the monks are busy making wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, hand creams, soaps, and jewellery.
April 15 -- Tourists are arriving in Crete, Greece, but not sailboats yet. When we started touring Khania a few days ago there were less than a dozen tourists. Now, just a few days later, the restaurants and stores are full. That's good news for the Greek economy. Tomorrow, we'll set sail to Rethimno, another pretty northern Crete town with a Venetian built harbour. Weather should be good and helpful winds.
April 16 -- We're tied in a marina in Rethimno's large Venetian harbour. It's not as pretty as Khania, surrounded by 70s vintage apartments. Getting here was wild, despite forecasts! It started out comfy, reading in the warm sun, gentle breezes and sea, except when the Greek Navy Destroyer passed us too close going 30 knots creating big waves. The sea calmed again, we picnicked in the cockpit sailing under "delicious winds" as Con calls them, 10-15 knots, then all hell broke lose. The wind died, an eerie silence surrounded us, and then south winds attacked from nowhere, spinning Big Sky in a near circle and everything on our port side flew starboard, then back to port. Big Sky began galloping in the high waves that accompanied the winds as we were reaching 7 knot speeds. We reefed the sails, set ourselves back on course, and took green water over the pilot house and the occasional wave spray into the cockpit. Big Sky heeled over so far to port nearly putting the rail in the water! Lying flat on the pilot house couches to keep the sea sickness at bay, I heard sloshing in the galley (kitchen). With difficulty walking inside, holding tight to the inside hand rails, I saw water coming up the sink and splashing over the counter tops. I bailed water from one sink to the other, and Con came below to close the sea cock, located in an awkward place, under the carpet and floor boards in the bunk room. Oddly, we've never closed that sink valve in all our years, and despite a number of nasty seas, we've never had a drop come up.
April 18 -- Church bells called us awake at 7 am. We rose lazily and spent the day washing, cleaning and pretty much putzing around the boat. Greek Television offers up a few English language shows: a movie most nights, reruns of House, or the occasional futball (soccer) game. Tonight, it's futball.
April 20-21 -- Crete is an interesting place, the most southerly of the Greek islands, it stretches 250 KM east to west. The goats have carved paths up and down the rugged coasts, mountains and ravines, through the gorges, and today, those paths are a hiker’s paradise. We've put on many miles in the rented cars witnessing the carved landscapes, beaches, ruins, and all the wonders that make this island so beautiful.
Plakias South of Rethimno the land is incredibly fertile. Every square inch was covered in olive trees, grape vines, or orange trees. We stopped for lunch in a small town with just a smattering of white-washed houses.
April 22-23 -- Well, last night was our first anchorage of the year. We loved it! Our Finnish friends (Ari and Tarja -- also living aboard a Nauticat boat) left Rethimno at the same time and we both motored 37 NM east and dropped our anchors near each other in the bay. The only sound in the night was the water gently lapping up on the rocks. Still no wind this morning, so following breakfast (latte and toast) made compliments of the generator, we set our course to Spinalonga Lagoon for another anchorage.
We rowed over to the island and spent the day hiking. Big Sky is in the background, and Little Sky (as Con calls our dingy) in the foreground. Like most of the locations in Crete, it was occupied by the Venetians in 1200 for 500 years, then by the Turks in 1700.
The first half of the 1900's, this island was a Leper Colony until modern medicine began treating the disease. Sadly, the Leper cemetery is without headstones or identification. The book, "The Island" is an excellent fictional book about the island when it was used to banish Lepers.
April 27 -- We have the United Nations here at the Agos Nikolaos Marina: French, British, American, Dutch, German, Polish, Swedish, and one Canadian boat. Wind continues to blow so we'll stay put for now. Meanwhile, we watched "Greek Idol" last night on TV -- bad.
April 28 -- The island of Crete is located at a point where three continents of Asia, Europe and Africa meet. The town where we are, Agos Nikolaos is like a crossroads of their influences. The history dates back to Minoan times 2100 - 1550 BC). A ship wreck was discovered in the north-east of Agos Nikolaos dating back to 2000 BC -- one of the oldest shipwrecks discovered.
April 30 -- Our visiting days are nearly finished on the beautiful island of Crete, now at the Bay of Mirabello, located on the eastern end of Crete's north coast. It was believed that the Bay was the centre of the earth, because the ruins of four civilizations have been uncovered here. Nowhere else on earth has such a density of civilizations been found. The entire bay was at one time the centre of commerce and shipping during these times. There are excavated ruins on the north side of the island believed to be pottery and other artifacts from the island of Santorini when the volcano erupted and the great tsunami changed the Mediterranean landscape. People believe this is the time of the Lost Continent of Atlantis.
We drove to a village high up in the mountain, Kritsa, with one road in and one road out. It's the oldest continuously inhabited village, dating back a few thousand years BC. The winds should be kind tomorrow as we sail toward Sitia and then north to the islands east of Crete. The road wound through the town which was about 500 meters long (the town). The fruit and veggie truck arrived and locals came out to shop. Crete like all of the countries we've visited in the Mediterranean have their share of castles, ancient ruins, temples, churches, monasteries, mosques... There's so much to see and so much beauty.
Crete's earliest people date back 3,000 years to the Minoan. We visited the palace at Knosos and Phaestos that had been excavated by archeologists.
May 29 -- We're touring the island of Milos the chalk island, and a volcano. The colours, cliffs, gulfs, hills and gorges are unique. Milos lies on the Eurasiatic Plate and 220 km from the collision boundary with the African Plate. The African plate is slipping under the Eurasiatic Plate at a speed of 2.5 cm per year. Milos is slowly sliding into the sea. We're heading to the hot springs today. Apparently there are places on Milos where the sand is so hot, it reaches 190 degrees F. Dropping anchor twice today, trying out both beautiful beaches, swimming in the 24.5 degree waters. While snorkeling I daydreamed that dolphins might sneak up and spy of us. The bottom of the bay is completely covered with white sand. I spotted a few white-coloured star-fish, and a squid. Then! I saw an enormous dark figure partially in the sand which caught me off guard. I froze to take a clearer look, and saw it was our anchor!
May 31 -- Reluctantly, we pulled up the anchor from our private location in a large bay to visit the crater portion of the island of Milos. We arrived in the marina in Adamas, and plugging into electricity recharging our batteries.
June 2 -- We received word that a couple we’d met in Lagos, Portugal sailing with their daughters hit a submerged iceberg called a "growler" as did the Titanic and sank. The four were rescued off Cape Horn. See the attached story. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1278713/Mayday-How-growler-got-In-dramatic-words-pictures-couple-struck-iceberg-saved-Royal-Navy-tell-terrifying-ordeal.html
For us, it was another rocky night as it's hard to get good shelter from the winds on some of the small islands in the Cyclades. With great skill, we tied to a concrete pier in a small fishing bay then learned that large ferries came in and out -- you can imagine the swells! We went around the bay into a rocky anchorage in front of the most unusual village. People live in caves. In the photos, you can see the colourful doors of the caves. Some use them for storing their boats, and others live in there. The island's geology is heavily made up of chalk, in fact the name Kimolos means "chalk." It was once an important ancient civilization, but now a large part of it is submerged beneath the sea.
June 5 -- Our days are near perfect as we sail into one small village after another in the beautiful Greek Cyclades islands. On a glorious beam reach, we soared into the Serifos Bay from our anchorage at Sifnos. The bay was deep, and after dropping our anchor we realized that it was also a difficult hold with sand and grass. A nasty cross wind was blowing, as we lined up for the pier, dropping our stern anchor to hold us away from the pier, I let out 50 meters. Con held us steady and I tossed the bow lines to two guys who tied us on. Turns out it's a free stay on the pier, and free internet! It's a pretty town, with a stunning chora (town) at the top of the mountain looming above us.
June 8 -- These photo just about sum up our days. In fact, it's almost paradise, except... except that we had to tackle the calcium in the toilet hose this morning. No photos for that!
June 9 -- On our way to the next anchorage, our best sea buddies, the dolphins came to visit again. We went to the bow to chat with them, and Con asked if they'd come back next week for a visit while Lorna is here with us. We hiked up to the 15th century Venetian kastro (castle) where this church was about the only this remaining. However, many of the houses are medieval cube-shaped and have incorporated the stones from the castle. The donkey-wide paths open to this square.
June 13 -- LORNA ARRIVED! My jet-lagged sister-in-law landed in Athens and we zoomed off to the Acropolis in our rented car. Tomorrow, we'll head out into the Northern Cyclades and drop the big hook.
June 14 -- The three of us left the mainland for the island of Kea, dropping anchor and rowed in for lunch to watch the World Cup. It was incredibly hot, so Lorna and I swam to cool off, then rowed back to the restaurant to watch the game with Con.
June 16 -- We're weaving our way through the northern Cyclades islands, stopping around midday to drop anchor, swim and enjoy lunch in the cockpit. Two days ago, on our way into the delightfully Greek town, Batsi, on the island of Andros, we spotted slow moving dark creatures, maybe porpoises or small whales about 100 meters off our bow. A moment later, a lone dolphin came to our bow. Batsi's harbour is in the heart of the town, with quiet tavernas mixed in and around the fishing boats.
Still no wind, and tremendous heat, we motored on toward the island of Tinos the next morning. We'd no sooner left the harbour and the black objects were swimming at the surface of the sea again. The further we motored, the more we saw, until we guessed that there were hundreds of them. Since they didn't break the surface for air, only showing us their black fins. BUT, then one leaped high out of the sea with its long sword-like nose. Swordfish or Marlins? Again, dolphins came to the bow, four of them; two remained to play for the longest time. Just before stopping for lunch, a burst of wind came from nowhere, we raised the sails and for 10 or 15 minutes, soared at 7 knots on a close haul.
The town of Tinos on the island of Tinos has over 800 chapels and in the 60's was declared a holy island. Many Greek Orthodox make a pilgrimage there. Yesterday, an older woman made her way up the very steep street on her hands and knees. The city has put out a narrow carpet for the devotees to crawl on, but this woman chose the hard pebbled and concrete street. Half way, a Greek Orthodox priest sat in the shade on a bench waiting for her and holding her shoes. I imagine the island goes through their share of Band-Aids. The church of the Annunciation dominates the town. It receives a treasury of offerings from pilgrims hoping to have their prayers answered.
June 18 – Motor sailing to Mykonos, one of the most popular islands in the Cyclades, we walked the town’s tangle of streets, no wider than two people across, with dazzling white alleys and cube-shaped houses. It's built in a maze design to defy the wind and pirate raids. The temperatures were in the high 30's, when we left our day spot for the island of Siros for the night. Arriving at 5 pm, we swam into the warm sea and cooled down.
June 22 -- Lorna went back to Calgary, after a week aboard Big Sky with us. It was her first time sailing and she was game for everything. At one point, Con said, "Okay Lorna, hang on, we're going to heel." She was calm and ready for whatever that meant. Later said, “It was okay, I know how to swim.” Now she knows, it's when the boat leans over when the wind catches in the sails. We had a few great sailing days, nearly put the rail in the water. Con and I are tucked into the Faliro Marina on the Greek mainland, having a few repairs done. We've yet to get the bow thruster to work since installing the inverter in Ibiza a few years ago. We're crossing our fingers that the dealer we're working with will find the problem and fix it. We're in the market for a new dinghy too, since ours is coming apart at the seams and water leaks in. We learned that returning to the boat with Lorna. When we arrived in Faliro, a nice marina just in behind the Olympic Stadium, Aerosmith was warming up for their concert that night. We sat out in our cockpit and listened to them play and the thousands of fans cheering. Parties continued into the early hours of the morning.
June 24 -- Weather has cooled to high 20's giving us a bit of heat relief. We set off from the main-land marina for Russian Bay on the Peloponnese. It's markedly more quiet, just the sounds of goats and water lapping at the shore. Television reception is better than on the mainland. Con's enjoying the World Cup -- bad news for Italy today.
June 25 -- LOVE BEING AT ANCHOR!
We left a pretty bay this morning, passing the town of Poros, very near to Athens, but separated from the mainland by a narrow, shallow channel. Con prepared a careful route taking us through the snake-like path passed the town, with shallows on both sides. After four tries for the perfect anchorage, we settled into a quiet bay. The first anchorage was too narrow, the second too crowded, the third we touched bottom! But this spot is just right. We can hear the birds singing, the sea is gentle, and Big Sky is secure -- bow anchor and stern line ashore. We motor and sailed for seven hours today. Along the way Con watched the World Cup on TV, then I watched House. Cool.
June 28 -- Just a few days remain before we pack up to leave for Holland and Canada for two months. We positioned ourselves in the bay last night, outside the Koiladhia Boat Yard in Kilada, Greece as we were promised a lift at 8:30 am. At exactly 8:30 am, we were called on the VHF that they were ready for us! The lift was excellent, the people very professional, and the equipment was top notch. The boy in the yard, maybe 15, the nephew of the operator works the controls and has since he was 8. It’s a joy stick that moves all the crane’s wheels separately and moved the crane positioning it around the boats. A dream job for any kid!
July 2 -- Driving to Athens today (on our way to the hotel for an early morning flights to the Netherlands) we were flagged down on a mountain road by the Greek SWAT team. Four or five police officers were in flak jackets, heavily weaponed, one with a sniper rifle, others carrying semi-automatics. They looked in our car and spoke to us in English (how did they know?), telling us "two minutes," then flagging us on to "go quickly, now." WHAT WAS GOING ON? We checked into our hotel just in time for the World Cup game, Netherlands vs. Brazil, Con went crazy when Holland won, screaming and jumping. Another 20 minutes, and Ghana vs. Uruguay.
IN THE NETHERLANDS
July 9 -- Yesterday, we babysat Maya and Jon's daughter Anne, who turns one next Wednesday. This morning, Con surprised me with a canoe trip! We rented a two-seater kayak/canoe for the day and paddled around the Vuntus Lake, a protected body of water brimming with birds, ducks, swans and beautiful water lilies. Two swans ahead of me. It was incredibly hot today, so by noon, we called it a day and stopped at the fish monger for smoked mackerel, herring and deep fried fish called "kibblings." Yum! Nomie joined us for dinner in Albertine's beautiful back yard. The Netherlands is on the edge of their seats waiting for the final World Cup match: Holland vs. Spain. The entire country is dressed and draped in orange.
IN BRENTWOOD BAY, CANADA
July 26 -- What a whirl wind of activity for us since leaving The Netherlands a few weeks ago. Con and I enjoyed a visit with my mom in Brentwood Bay, BC, who is doing well. We spent a day and traveled up island to visit our good friends Shirlee and Mark in Nanaimo, and then we drove nearly around the corner to Elserine and Hugo's new place still under construction in Nanoose Bay.
July 27 -- FUN WITH FAMILY. Lindsey & Les are marrying in a few weeks, August 7th. Courtney hosted a shower for Lindsey in Courtney's backyard. We had to bring stuff for Lindsey to wear. Hailey, (1) joined in too. My beautiful mom arrives in a week. Five generations of family.
August 8 -- Lindsey and Les' wedding yesterday in Red Deer was beautiful.
BACK ON THE BOAT
August 26 -- We're beating "jet lag", having arrived in Athens, via Zurich on a pleasant flight aboard Edelweiss Airlines two or three days ago (depending on which hemisphere you're marking it from,) as we lose a day traveling east.
Con prearranged a hotel in Nafplio in the old city in the centre of town. It's a half-day's drive from Big Sky -- "on the hard." In Greece, we've purchased a six-month Cruising Permit, and while we're away, we can "freeze" the time on the permit, hence the term "putting it into bond." We learned yesterday though, that there's a good chance we can apply for a Permanent Cruising Permit, as Big Sky is VAT (tax) paid in Europe. Currently, we must exit every 90 days. It the Schengen Agreement (see Noonsite link that Con wrote). http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/Greece/Schengen-Visas-and-VAT-Cruisers-Reports
a complicated system, but it's meant to make life easier for those living within the EU.
It's hot here! Arriving by rented car yesterday, Con hoisted our suitcases up onto the boat, about five or six meters above ground by a rope-pulley affair. I climbed up the ladder and proceeded to put everything away, including the groceries we stocked up on while we had wheels. Putting it mildly, "It was a sweaty ordeal." Con worked on the outside of the boat, applying anti-fouling to the prop and shaft, and put the bow thruster parts back together. This morning, we're crossing our fingers that the sail maker arrives as promised in the morning with our repaired sails so we can launch Big Sky back into the Aegean Sea. Our first plan: sail to Nafplio. It's truly charming, and having been there twice, (putting the boat in bond and then out again), we visited the same restaurant both times, and I ordered the same salad, as it's quite likely the best salad in all of Europe.
August 28 -- Nearly everything is affordable in Greece, except for our experience today... We've been anchored in the Kilada bay pictured below, main industry: Basimakopouloi Shipyard, www.bsg.com.gr - an excellent yard, perhaps the best we've experienced. When we turned the power on at anchor we couldn't figure out why everything was working except our generator. A mechanic arrived by motor boat (the electrician was on vacation) and began to take apart our electrical board, the jib and main sail boxes, and other unrelated electrical devises. Con then suddenly remembered he'd forgotten to turn on a switch, opened a cupboard and with one finger flipped it on and we were back in business. We thanked him, and said we'd put the boat panel back together. He said, "That's 150 euro."
August 29 -- We've been watching a little critter bob in the water for the last few days, wondering if it could be a Mediterranean otter. This morning, Con took one more dip before we pull up anchor, and just five or six meters from him, an enormous turtle popped its head up checking him out. The turtle remained at our stern for a few minutes, and then carried on diving for breakfast. Yesterday, we saw dozens of tiny fish jump as they were being chased... now we know who was chasing. One innocent victim sought freedom mistakenly in our dinghy, but by the time we got to him, he was dried-up dead. Big Sky's hull, bow thruster, and prop are spotless -- every sea particle and dust removed. Big Sky's performance like brand-new. While underway going about 5 knots, enormous dolphins visited our bow.
September 2 -- We left our anchorage early in the morning for Lavrion, as we make our way north to the Sporades Islands. It took eight hours and all of it directly into the wind. Our new dinghy was stored properly on the fore deck covering the large V-berth window, which unfortunately wasn't secured tightly. Upon arrival, we dragged the cushions and bedding out into the sun to dry.
It felt good to be back on the water again, after two days at the quay in the Nafplio harbour. The Greek Nafplio Customs officers told us that Big Sky would qualify to remain in Greek waters permanently, as we've paid the European tax called VAT, currently at 23 percent. Excited, we hired a lawyer to translate our VAT and other official documents into Greek, and another lawyer researched our tax needs. We woke this morning anticipating our new Greek status, then our bubble was burst. Our lawyer told us this morning, that the Greek Tax Department would thoroughly enjoy getting hold of our tax number, and charging us extraordinary taxes as non-EU residents. We made the decision NOT to proceed. It was exciting while it lasted, envisioning ourselves set up in a permanent Greek marina as "home base" and cruising endlessly throughout the beautiful Greek waters. Currently, we must be mindful of our six-month Cruising Permit and ensure that we don't go a day over, as the fines are outrageous, as well as exiting Schengen before 90 days are up. We sucked back our last Nafplio 2 Euro Freddo Cappuccinos (cold coffee) and motored out of the harbour, crossing our fingers that our next harbour will be jelly-fish free. The waters all of a sudden are thick with basketball-sized jelly fish.
September 7 -- Happy Birthday Dex! Our grandson turns two today!
We're heading north toward Skopelos, the island where Mama Mia was filmed, carefully motoring through the shallows. Now in a cozy pier (no electricity or water) we're waiting for the small bridge to open so we can move north toward Mama Mia island. The small bridge slides into the road, that we must pass through and according to the Port Police in Khalkis, it may slide Wednesday -- at midnight. A strong current runs under the bridge with lots of shallows. We'll do some research to find a good place to anchor or tie up that won't leave us stuck in the shallows when the tide changes. Our other choice is to keep moving during the night -- not my favorite way to travel. Especially since yesterday's route appeared to be safe, when in fact it ran us over a visible swamp, which would have grounded us. Thankfully, we were able to spot it and re-route ourselves around.
September 10 -- Two nights ago, we finally were able to cross under the retractable Khalki Bridge, to sail up the narrow channel toward Skopelos (Mama Mia island). What started out as an orderly bridge crossing turned into a free-for-all-crazy-race-through-and-get-to-the-other-side frenzy. We were called on the VHF to 'proceed, first' at which point a number of sailboats and fishing boats raced to beat us. There are only a few spots on the other side on the wall that are deep enough for our keel, so we were anxious to go through first (as called). The German captain of the smaller sailboat tried to cut us off by motoring through the shallows to the spot where we intended to tie up and we were approaching it. Not letting up, the German put his boat into a hard reverse causing one guy to fall off and into the wild current. Luckily he was close enough to the wall that people pulled him out. The waves from our two boats alone nearly caused a tsunami onto the boardwalk drenching the people having dinner and drinks along the water front. The noise that night! A bar just two meters from our boat played 'bong, bong, bong' throughout the night. We put closed our windows, put on a tiny 12V fan and slept like babies. The Port Authorities charged us 100 euro to pass through the bridge. It costs 19 euro for everyone else, including Americans, Aussie's, Swedes, and EU people. We've been visiting their offices nearly causing an 'international' incident as they've been contacting Canadian and Greek embassy then telling us, "Sorry, we are friends, our two countries," they assured us, but Canada has not signed a “reciprocal bridge agreement.” They asked us to take it to our government, and Con is working on that now. Currently, Canada is listed along with North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria…
Strong winds are coming, so we'll set sail today for an anchorage.
September 12 -- At anchor last night, the winds tested our anchor hold like an angry puppy with a sock. We set the anchor drag alarm which beeped a few times in the night as Big Sky stretched on the anchor beyond the boundary set, but we held throughout the night, moving 9 1/2 nautical miles in circles according to our GPS tracking. During the night, Con researched Canada's Maritime laws where Canada signed various treaties in 2003 with the United Nations. Con is sending the documents with our cover note back to the Port Authorities in Kalkhis this morning, which may keep them busy for a few hours. We might even get our 70 Euro back. ...likely not. (UPDATE: Con contacted the Canadian embassy in Athens and was referred to Transport Canada for further action. After two years of useless correspondence, nothing was ever achieved.)
September 13 -- The sea was calm before bed last night. We felt as if we were the only people on earth in our quiet secluded bay. The charter season is wrapping up, and only a handful of boats are on the water.
September 17 -- Is every little cove 'paradise' here in Greece? We dropped the 'hook' in 29.5 degree waters in Volos Bay. We left the port city of Volos with the cupboards stocked, and our Wind Speed Indicator on the top of the mast replaced. Our neighbour who referred to himself as a 'Mast Monkey' offered to go up the mast -- thank God! because I don’t like Con going up. Mast Monkey replaced the 12-year old instrument and while there, replaced a spreader light bulb. He does odd jobs in the harbour for 'whatever you want to pay.' Volos is a typical harbour city. The pier was littered with kids partying until morning. Carlos, AKA Mast Monkey said boaters have woken in the morning to graffiti on their boats. We were happy to leave. Yesterday, a group of teens took turns climbing aboard Big Sky for 'photo opportunities' that is until Mast Monkey swore at them in Greek to 'get the fu** off!' He claimed they were warming up to rob us later. The sail was calm -- the way I like it. We putzed at 3.5 knots on 11 knots on the beam. Water was calm, and so were my nerves. From our anchorage on the island of Evia, we moved into the beautiful Bay of Volos, with not a breath of wind nor a ripple on the sea. The landscape looked like we were in the Swiss Alps.
September 18 – Happy birthday daughter Lindsey!
September 19 -- Ah, we've arrived on the beautiful island of Skathios, AKA 'Mama Mia Island,' or at least one of the Northern Sporades islands where they filmed the fun movie. We anchored last night in a gorgeous bay, and swam from morning to night in the warm waters. Motoring around the island taking pictures of the filming locations: Filming location for the fun scene where they danced to "Does your Mama Know." The old harbour in Skathios, where they shot a couple of the Mama Mia scene's. One where the guys race down the pier in the taxi, and the harbour where they meet the third dad who's on his sailboat. Skathios is a gorgeous town, friendly people, and cute white-washed Greek houses piled high along the hillside. Temperatures in Greek are still incredibly appealing. Today was a delightful 30 degrees, with a cooler fall breezes. The water is still hanging in there at 29 degrees.
September 23 -- Skopelos is a forest! Beautiful, lush with pine trees blanketing the island. I'm not sure what is prettier, seeing it from the water, or by car. Definitely, the day's highlight for me was climbing the cliff face to Apos Iaonnis Monastery on the top of the rock. It's the 'Mama Mia' chapel. Spectacular. Even more so, because the waves were wild and crashing around us. We drove to the charming town of Skopelos and walked the cobbled streets winding up to the top of the hillsides and down to the harbour.
September 24 -- We left the island of Skopelos yesterday on a rough sea. The wind was on our stern most of the way, giving us a great sail to Pattiri, on the island of Alonnisos, arriving in the beautiful horse-shoe shaped harbour cut into a canyon-looking landscape. Swells rolled in, and Big Sky was a-rockin’. I stayed awake most of the night worrying that our anchor would lift and we'd crash into the concrete. Yesterday, two British couples arrived on a charter boat moments after we tied up. They laid their anchor over ours and when we tried to tell them, they shouted in a very unfriendly manner, "NO WE DIDN"T." We left that alone. They moored too close for the conditions and we suggested kindly that they pull their line to slide into a further ring and again they said, "NO..." Before they'd set their final line, they crashed into the side of Big Sky leaving an ugly gash in the side of our boat. They gave us the dirty look. No words were exchanged, they simply attempted to pull up their anchor to leave, and indeed had hooked an anchor, (the one we're on top of...). They lifted the tourist boat's anchor which lifted our anchor, and created havoc.
September 27 -- Never make brownies in near-hurricane storms while living aboard. The tossing inside the oven wasn’t so healthy for their ability to rise. I know this, because while underway to Big Sky's third continent, Asia, we stopped to anchor for the night. The wind picked up beyond our weather reports, blind-siding us with 30-50 knot winds and gusts to 61 in the night. That's the most wind we've ever had while aboard! Hurricane winds start at 64... Luckily, we tucked into a semi-sheltered bay, with an excellent anchor hold, thanks to our massive fifty-kilogram 'Bruce' and forty meters of chain and tossed like a rubber duck in the Meltimi winds. The angry clouds at times sliced through our mast, as they roared loudly out into the open sea behind us. We were lucky to find this spot to drop the 'hook' because 30 minutes before, we'd hit bottom in two meter waters. The bay had fickle depths. Our EU time is up, so we're stamping out of Greece for Turkey.
September 28 -- The island of Lesvos in the Eastern Sporades is beauty. We arrived under sail, as the sun was setting and tied to the Venetian Harbour, stepped out to enjoy mezes (appetizers). A Byzantine castle rests high on a mountain overlooking the Aegean where we can see Turkey to the east (north east in this photo) and the Greek Sporades island to the west. It was a super-hot day but the climb was worth it.
September 29 -- The wind picked up as we motored toward the quay in our last Greek stop before Turkey. I stepped on the 'anchor down' button and the stern anchor planted itself a few boat lengths behind us and Con continued to motor slowly forward. I tossed the bow lines, and leaped to the concrete tying first the windward side, then looping the port side and climbed back aboard to tie it to the cleat. We'd settled. Rather than walking into town to find a grocery store, we remained aboard, as the rain would soon be on us and the wind was really picking up. Thank God, we were aboard. We heard a 'crash' as Big Sky's bow hit the concrete quay. The stern anchor had slipped. Con turned started the boat, I jumped to the lines. Big Sky blew starboard and we settled her alongside. We’ll lift our slack anchor later.
October 2 -- We entered Dikili, Turkey, Big Sky's third continent, hovered in the small harbour attempting dock. It was full with fishing boats. The harbour was surrounded by restaurants and two enormous concrete trucks on one side, and mud and drying concrete on the other. We spotted two rings just at sea level, dropped the stern anchor and tied the bow to the rings at water level. The friendly harbour master greeted us just as we completed the task, offering a cup of Turkish tea to go with our 50 euro stay. 'No electricity, sorry, no water.' By comparison, our costs in Greece per night on the quay average 6 euro, and often free electricity and water. We were instructed to wait in his office, along with the cats, as it tripled as the tea station and fish counter and he'd get the 'agent.' In Turkey, entering by boat requires an agent. An extra cost for the purpose of taking advantage of boaters. An agent arrived, took our papers and passport, and two hours later the agent returned when the calculations were done. The cost: 250 euro. We told them we wouldn't be staying. The Port Police stood guard at the exit, as we were illegal immigrants when I requested permission to pass in order to pick up necessary market supplies. He said, “Thirty minutes, then you leave or pay.” We sailed back to a clean, quiet Greek harbour -- no cost. We now have a new Greek cruising log, (for 50 euro) but the expiration date is yet to be determined. Tomorrow, we'll rent a car and tour the island of Chios.
October 5 -- The last of the Meltimi winds are blowing themselves down the Aegean causing lots of swells and confused sea over the last few days. We sailed to Patmos, known as the 'Jerusalem of the Aegean'. The '15-day captains' as Con calls them, and about eight cruise ships and tall ships have arrived on the island. It was best that we leave for anchorage, as the '15-day captains' were having a heck of a time in the wind attempting to moor beside us. It was a full-time job keeping them from ramming Big Sky.
Patmos is famous because of St. John's arrival in 95 AD. In the Holy Cave of the Apocalypse, located near the Chora (town on the hill) St. John saw the vision of fire and brimstone and dictated the book of Revelation to his disciple. In 2003, Con and I visited Patmos as '15-day captains', rented a motorcycle and visited the Cave (I drove, because Con doesn’t have a motorcycle licence. He asked for a pink helmet and climbed on behind me.) There are indentations where the saint allegedly rested his head. He said, “I heard the voice of God coming from the cleft in the rock,” still visible today. An old cobbled pathway leads up to the Monastery of St. John at the top of the chora (on the hill) where spectacular view of the surrounding islands can be seen.
Happy 27th Birthday to our youngest daughter Courtney! October 4th.
October 8 -- Arriving two days ago on the strong north easterly winds, we've secured ourselves in the Naxos harbour. Free stay includes water and electricity, however visiting in 2016 it’s privately owned and there is a hefty fee for water and power – the overnight was 35 euro. The sea is unfriendly, with white caps crashing into the break water sending spray a story high. Naxos and Paxos are the only two islands of the Cyclades chain of Greek islands that we haven't explored. We're on Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades, and as soon as the winds relax, we'll sail to Paxos. There is a beautiful big bay between the two islands perfect for various anchoring depending on winds. Behind the main street you can get pleasantly lost in the maze of cobble stone paths that wind around the town in circular maze style. The pathways are often covered in grape vines, great shade in the summer heat. It's 23 degrees today, as the cooler weather arrives. The '15-day captains' are certainly getting great docking training in these winds. Charters’ seek shelter for night, but leave no matter the wind conditions to keep to their schedules to return the boats on time. These are not the greatest sailing conditions. One captain found himself in a real mess trying to exit the harbour, crashing into most of the boats on his pier. At one point, everyone took a pause from the chaos to exchange insurance.
October 10 -- Once the wind settled, so did the sea, and we sailed on to Naousa, Paros. Entering the Naxos harbour, we could see that the Venetian castle on the end of the breakwater was slowly sinking into the sea. The town is completely white-washed except for the blue domes on the churches spotting the parched hillsides.
October 11 -- Passing the rocks this morning on our way into Paros was a sobering moment. In 2000, a ferry captain plowed into them, rather than making the sharp turn into the harbour. After lying, claiming he fell asleep, the real story came out... he was watching the futball finals, missed the turn, and plowed into the rocks above. There was a strong Meltimi blowing, and the ferry had drifted with the wind and current directly into the path of the rocks. Eighty-two passengers died. http://www.greekislandhopping.com/Updates/updatepages/u_disaster.html
Following this disaster, other Greek stories surfaced involving cover ups, political corruption, and eventually the man who received most of the finger-pointing, sadly jumped from a sixth floor window to his death in Piraeus.
October 12 -- Angry fishermen closed the Port of Paros in a noisy protest about the EU fishing regulations, yesterday afternoon. About 20 fishing boats, flying black flags made of plastic bags, and close to 100 fishermen blocked the harbour mouth and then docked in the ferry terminal in an effort to draw attention to their protest. They delayed one ferry from leaving, by lining up their boats across the harbour entrance. The ferry captain gave three loud blasts on his horn indicating he was backing up, and used his ferry wash to push the fishing boats back, and was able to exit.
The next ferry was due shortly, (above) so they came back to the harbour and tied up at the ferry terminal. The fishermen lit flares, honked, and shouted. The protest had nothing to do with the ferries, as it was just their way to attract attention. The EU has passed a law in Brussels last year declaring that those specific fishing boats are no longer able to fish within a three-nautical mile zone from the coast. The fishermen claim their boats are not able to go further as they're not sea worthy. The issue is about protecting the coastal fish, because these fishers use a net and tool that depletes stock. They also need to comply with the international fishing laws that are wrapped around the fish farms. The Greek fishing boats are very unique to Greece, and the fishermen claim they will cease to exist if these laws are enforced, as well as their livelihood. The Harbour Master came out to talk with the groups of fisher men, who assured him that they would move their fishing boats once the large ferry made his turn toward the dock, and they did.
October 17 – MOM ARRIVES ABOARD!
Mom flew into Athens (flying to Toronto with Doug) then connecting to Athens. The sun felt so good today, mom and I let down the back gate and dipped into the 26 degree waters in the bay. We're tied to the Korissia, town quay on the island of Kea. This was our first trek; no sailing, as there was no wind today. We watched the flying fish, but no dolphins yet for mom.
October 18 -- We woke to gray clouds and a few lightning flashes this morning, and checked the new weather forecast.
Big winds are expected later today and for the next few days, so we charted our course to the pretty town of Basti, on the island of Andros where we'd have a secure mooring. The rain pelted down as we got underway.
Con securing the line as we were getting underway.
The 3 1/2-hour motor started out over smooth seas, but progressively got more choppy. Mom had taken a quarter of a sea-sickness pill, because they're mighty little tablets and usually put me to sleep for the day. Mom may be plagued with sea sickness and laid on the couch during the journey. Once we tied up in Basti, we enjoyed stuffed peppers for lunch, and a pot of tea with cookies.
Mom cleaning up the kitchen.
We'll leave the touring until the rain stops.
October 19 -- Tucked behind the breakwater, we can watch the south winds blow the sea against the rocks and over to the quay.
Photo: Big Sky at the quay in Batsi.
We will remain in Batsi until the wind and sea relaxes, and strolled through the pretty town, the only tourists.
October 21 -- The winds were blowing hard, teasing us with small windows of time to move from one island to the next. We left Batsi, when the winds calmed, but we knew the sea would be miserable. That was an understatement. It was quite likely the most unpleasant sea we've ever encountered... and wouldn't you know it, it's when we're traveling with precious cargo -- my 83-year-old mom. The winds blew us for 4 1/2 hours, gusted at times to 53 knots, (100 kph) but the sea just tossed us endlessly. From our view (mom and me) inside the pilot house, we watched the waves crash over the bow and dodger, and ride high up the starboard side, higher than the rail. Mom was so sick. It was 4 1/2 hours of hell. We entered Tinos' harbour, dropped the anchor in a crosswind, with a few people waiting to catch our lines. We were secure, and the next moment, we realized our stern anchor was slipping in the winds, pushing us further starboard until our keel was over the neighbours anchor chain. After exerting plenty of adrenalin we got back in the harbour attempting it a second time... it was not good either. Con maneuvered the bow around so we could back in and drop our 50 kilogram never-fails-us Bruce anchor, and it didn't hold. We lined up and attempted again, it held, we were 30 meters to the quay and the anchor wouldn't feed anymore, we aborted that attempt. Stepping on the electric button to pull up the Bruce, the motor gave out, and Con cranked it the rest of the way by hand, while I kept the boat off the cruise liners mooring, all the while, watching that a ship didn't enter the harbour. Now completely exhausted, and a crowd of people all around the harbour watching and giving advice, we dropped the stern anchor again. We came in too short! Pulled it up realizing we'd now hooked an old anchor in the harbour. Con attempted to lift the anchor with our boat hook, and the boat hook plastic handle popped off and we watched the stick begin to float away. Quickly, we lowered the gate, grabbed the stick, tied a rope on the anchor, lifted it, dropped the anchor, backed up, and were once again free to try to dock. Finally, 3 1/2 hours later, we secured the stern anchor, tied up, high-fived each other, and heard the people at the bars and at the quay clapping and cheering. Brushed our hair, washed our hands, collected mom, and set off for a meal. It had been eight hours since we'd eaten.
PHOTO: Mom the next afternoon at the helm (in the harbour).
October 22 -- The Aegean Sea has turned nasty, with high winds, keeping us grounded in the very religious town of Tinos, on the island of Tinos. Pilgrims crawl up the street to the church, perhaps a kilometer or more. The town has placed a red carpet on the street to save knees, and kiosk sell knee-pads. For those wishing to do more penance, they use the rough sidewalk and stone-covered tarmac of the church and no knee pads. The man on the left is crossing the stone pavement to the Greek Orthodox Panagia Evangelistria, church of the Annunciation, which dominates the town of Tinos. The woman on the right doing the same thing, on the carpeted road path. Mom and I walked the same street, which gives you a good view of the street the pilgrim crawl up, starting from the water and some from their exit from the ferry. Below the church is in the background.
PHOTO: Mom barely able to stretch her short little legs to Big Sky's ladder. I held her by her belt; Con pulled the rope; and mom grabbed the ladder. She's pretty agile for 83. I keep telling her to enter the cockpit from the stern, but she'd rather crunch into a tiny ball and slip through the side, under the bimini, doing a summersault to her feet. She makes me laugh! In the morning, Mom and I took a fast ferry to the island of Mykonos, leaving Con with Big Sky on the neighbour island of Tinos. The sea is too rough to sail. Our 'fast ferry' a catamaran, sliced through four and five meter white capped waves, splashing them high and hard against the windows. It took just 15 minutes to get there. The town of Mykonos is beautiful; everything is white-washed and geared for tourists. We walked through all the town on the narrow white painted stone lanes that twist in a maze throughout the old town. At one point, we passed two lazy pelicans -- huge birds -- sunning themselves on the narrow lane. We detoured, stopped at a beautiful restaurant and sat on the tiny deck with the Aegean Sea directly below us. The water was so clear, we could count the fish below.
October 25 -- Finally, we were able to extract ourselves from Tinos with a lull in the wind Sunday and sailed to the neighbour island of Syros. We tied at the quay in the harbour of the largest city in the Cyclades Islands – Ermoupoli.
Mom, Con and I hiked up to the Catholic church that overlooks the city. It looks like a giant amphitheater, with the harbour in the centre. This afternoon, mom drove us out of the harbour to our next stop on the other end of Syros.
October 27 -- Mom's a total trooper! Challenged by sea sickness, she's managed to overcome it by applying the techniques she's learned through her research on the internet. We've had rough seas at times too. Two nights ago, we tied to a tiny pier beside a military base, rather than join the many charter boats at the newer and larger pier. Reports we'd been watching indicated a south wind in the night, which would have made the newer marina uncomfortable. We woke peacefully the next morning, to find a bay filled with sleepy boaters attempting to anchor in the wind after their rocky night. It pays off in comfort and peace when you do your wind and weather homework. Last night, we tied alongside the pier in Loutra on the island of Kythnos and walked 100 meters to the natural hot spring that flows into the sea. While relaxing in the hot waters, a fish took a bite out of Con's shin! A charter boat left just before us, lifting the anchor of a large yacht, waking the occupants when their boat hit the concrete pier. The charter boat continued to be in distress, and dragged the yachts anchor chain, and then drifted into another sailboat's anchor chain. Yikes.
At our half-way point, the sky opened and the rain fell so hard it was like going through a car-wash. As quickly as it came, it left and an enormous rainbow filled the sky. We pretended it was dad smiling at us.
October 28 -- What a mixed bag of weather mom's had... The first days were sunny and warm, swimming weather, and this afternoon with the north wind blowing hard, the temps have dropped to 17 degrees, however, Friday and forward have sunshine in the forecast. Tomorrow, we'll take our last sail with mom to Piraeus where we'll take the subway into Athens to explore the Acropolis.
October 29 -- After a hike up to the clock tower on Poros to take in the surrounding sea and beautiful red-roofed houses, we set off for Piraeus. We anticipated sunshine by the afternoon, over a smooth sea, with head-winds and instead we had another day of pounding into the waves head-on. Mom loved it all. She bundled in my Gill sailing suit and sat out in the cockpit taking it all in. The temperatures dropped to around 17 degrees. As we approached Athens, we were met with a wall of sail boats jockeying for position in a regatta, then the whistle blew and in a flash, they all turned, their spinnakers filled and 150 sail boats headed directly toward us. Right behind them was another group of racers, jockeying ready for the next wave of racers. It was remarkable! Con did figure eight maneuvers to dodge them as we continued forward toward our marina. From the sea, we could see the Acropolis with the Parthenon shining brightly under the sunlight perched on top.
October 30 -- The three of us took the subway from the marina in Piraeus to Monastiraki, the bazaar area in Athens. It was about 15 minutes from our boat. We wandered through the streets, filled with designer clothes and flea market items. Everywhere we looked, ancient ruins appeared in front of us. We felt transported back in time. Early afternoon, we stopped in the shadow of the Acropolis and had lunch in a cozy restaurant. Rejuvenated, we walked a few hundred meters further and entered the New Acropolis Museum. It's excellent. On the fourth floor you're transported back in time to 400 BC. The Museum is surrounded by windows, with the south providing a perfect view of the Acropolis just outside the window.
October 31 -- We set off to the Acropolis today, and my 83-year-old mom climbed up and down the rock face with ease exploring the ancient sights.
November 8 -- Mom and I flew to Canada last week, me landing in Calgary and mom carrying on another hour to Vancouver Island.
Con's sister Albertine, and brother Jan and his wife Anne Marie joined Con last Friday for another vacation aboard.
Weather has been spectacular as Greece's 'small' summer continues with warm sunshine and comfy-warm sea for swimming. That's exactly what they did the other day, and scrubbed the hull clean. Con set the course from Hydra, expecting more good weather and winds (as the internet predicted) but from Con's report this morning, the day unfolded in a most unforgiving manner.
"We rose early for our 7 am departure, but our anchor fouled on an old anchor in the harbour. With a thirty-minute delay, we were finally untangled and set out over smooth water, until we rounded the northern tip and met a much rougher sea. Albertine was very sea sick. The wind reached 45 knots on the nose, with two-meter waves (steep and broadside). A new bottle of super concentrate detergent crashed on the laundry floor leaving a thick soapy mess all over the carpet. By 10 am, the conditions were too much, and we decided to return to Hydra. We raised the Genoa and had a good sail -- more stable. By 10:30, the VHF broadcasted gale warnings until 22:00, so the decision to turn back was the right one. We dropped the stern anchor in the harbour (literally) as the chain broke on our third try to anchor and it now resides at the bottom of the harbour. Trekked on to an anchorage but the Bruce (50 KG anchor) wouldn't hold. Set sail for Ermioni on the Peloponnese, 15 NM further. Sustained winds between 45 and 53 knots (force 9 & 10). Dropped the Bruce in the Ermioni small harbour and it stuck in the mud. We cleaned the carpet, and by 5 p.m., we were scouting out a restaurant."
November 13 -- Hailey, 1 ½
I’m filling up on kids and grandkids in Canada while Con sails the Greek Islands with his Dutch family. Sunday, in Canada we’re celebrating Hailey's 1 1/2 years. She was very sick on her real birthday with the Norwalk virus May 14th, so tomorrow we celebrate.
November 14 – The birthday event started with a puppet show put on by Lindsey and Courtney, opening presents, followed by cake.
November 19 -- Snow has arrived in Red Deer, along with the oh-so-unforgettable Canadian winter weather. Hailey loves the white stuff, but then, don't all kids? "
Meanwhile, back aboard Big Sky, Con's guests spent their last day in Athens, traveling there by bus. Jan's wallet was lifted, and the thieves made off with cash and managed to pull 300 euro out of his Visa. Greece IS A SAFE place; this happens in every big city. Personally, I never carry a purse, and Con keeps his wallet in his front pocket and his hand in his pocket. It's got to tick off the would-be pick pockets!
BACK IN GREECE
November 23 -- Sunday, I left the -25 degree weather in Calgary, arriving eighteen hours later in + 25 degree Athens. Con met me at the airport with his arms open, welcoming me back 'home.' "Home' being where Big Sky is moored. For the last year, it's been Greece. We're in the Zea Marina in Piraeus, the Athens harbour and for 3.20 euro we can be bussed from the airport nearly to Big Sky’s topside. What a shock to see the bus dodging mountains of garbage along the streets. Athens’ garbage collectors are on strike.
November 25 -- Piraeus, a suburb of Athens, and also the harbour of Athens is experiencing a garbage strike. As Con says, "This city is alive and real." It's an ancient city, filled with beautiful artifacts, architecture, people and graffiti. Bins with colourful garbage bags are busting out onto the streets at every corner. "The strike should be another day or two," the Greeks tell us casually. This morning, at 10 am we jumped over the garbage, climbed onto the bus, transferred to the subway on our way to the Canadian Embassy where we had prearranged a letter of 'introduction' that we could take to the Syrian Consulate for our Visa. We’re planning a Middle East holiday by land. With letter in hand, we hailed a cab to the Syrian Consulate where two friendly agents asked, "Have you been to Israel?" We responded, "No." So 87 euro each, we can return tomorrow to collect our Visa's. We hustled out of the pretty consulate neighbourhood reaching the locked subway gates just after noon only to learn from the attractive female officer that, "The Metro is on strike until four, maybe five, because there is anarchy downtown." At exactly 4 pm, the gate opened and we were squished like sardines into the subway cars, then squishing onto the bus which dropped us outside the marina. What would have been a two-hour task took us eight hours. Finally, by 6 pm, we were back on Big Sky.
Every cloud has a silver lining... Being away from the boat spared us from the non-stop Greek Orthodox less- than-appealing drone-singing that penetrates into our boat from the church across the channel.
November 28 -- No one can ever call Con a 'slacker,' he's just finalized our trains, planes and automobiles for our BDA (Big Deal Adventure). We'll keep Big Sky on the hard from December to March and travel to:
* Syria for three weeks;
* Jordan for a few weeks;
* Germany for the international boat show;
* The Netherlands by train to visit family;
* Canada (Alberta to visit family, Saskatchewan to celebrate Nolan's third birthday);
* Victoria to visit mom;
* Reykjavik, Iceland for four days;
* Holland again; and then
* Big Sky.
March, we'll sail to Turkey and spend the spring in the Black Sea. We have a BDA ahead of us!
December 4 -- Piraeus, a suburb of Athens, is a fantastic place to hang out while we wait for our departure to the Middle East and we've taken a month's mooring at the Zea Marina. Piraeus is an isthmus with the major ferry harbour on one side, and Zea Marina on the other. A hill separates the two shorelines, with fabulous shopping in between. Christmas lights and decorations adorn the streets and lots of locals come out to shop, enjoy the markets (fresh produce and the Nigerians selling socks, sun glasses, flashlights, purses, CD's, you-name-it items), restaurants and cafe's. We've been able to purchase almost all the little niggly items we've had on our maintenance list like screen window clips and a riveting tool to attach them, fridge seal, LED lights to replace our halogen ones, a new engine room blower, and water tank level sensors and gages. As well, taps for the two bathrooms and kitchen; and labour (reupholstering for the pilot house cushions, professionals overhauling the sail and anchor winches, and fixing the cutter sail furling motor). The final item on our list is to purchase a new stern anchor to replace the one that currently resides at the bottom of Hydra's harbour.
December 7 -- One of Con's last maintenance tasks: changing engine oil filters. Once completed, he turned on the engine -- all's well. He hit the 'off' button, and nothing happened. With enough diesel to keep the boat running for a few days, Con raced out the companion way doors to find an engine mechanic. Within a few minutes he was back with a good-looking mechanic, with acid spilled holes in his dirty coveralls in the wrong places... if a person was to look. Thirty seconds later, the mechanic hit the 'kill' switch. He'll be here in 50 minutes to find out 'why' the engine won't turn off.
December 8 -- Diesel Shower: Con said, "No thanks," to the Diesel Delivery Agent when he asked to 'do it for us.' Con filled 500 litres into our starboard tank, closed the valve to transfer the hose to the port side tank for the same fill, accidentally hit the 'open' valve and showered the two of us from head to foot with diesel. The Upside: price of diesel was good, 1.26 euro per litre.
December 9 -- Piraeus is sunny and warm. We had lunch on the second floor of an outdoor restaurant. Bird of Paradise flowers are coming into bloom.
December 13 -- Leaving Ermeole, one of our 101 favorite places in Greece. Weather has climbed back into the 20s, from the storm carrying snow we had two days ago.
December 12 -- What a difference a day makes! A winter weather system moved in on Greece yesterday, blowing 55 knots through the marina and with it snow. We put on our Gill winter sailing suits, tossed off the lines, and are currently under sail to Kilada, our lift out location. It will take us two days, and we plan to anchor in Ermeoli, just over half way.
To SYRIA – See Off the Beaten Track