Greek Islands

April 23, 2008

Position N 36 33.1' E 027 50.8'
Dropped anchor at noon in Panormittis Bay on the island of Simi, GREECE. All well on board.

 

This morning at 0615 hours we dropped the lines and set off for the island of Simi. It was with some relief that we bade Marmaris farewell and motored slowly out into the dawn. Marmaris has been a good stop but with all such stops, the frantic week of hard physical work of putting a boat ready for sea, always seems to leave us drained. Over the next few weeks we will monitor systems very carefully to see "what doesn't work" before we settle down into the routine of cruising and the enjoyment of new experiences.


The sun tried to shine but the haze was such that visibility was no more than 3 miles. We saw a couple of freighters on radar but could not see them visually, even when they were within four miles of us. The winds were light and fickle but by late morning we passed from Turkish waters to Greek waters and rigged the Greek

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courtesy flag. Our destination for today was Panormittis Bay. This is an enclosed body of water with just a narrow entrance on the southeast side of Simi. The bay is dominated by a large monastery and as we anchored we could hear peacocks calling from somewhere close ashore. The monastery was preparing for the celebration of Orthodox Easter this coming week-end. We had heard that there was a bakery at the monastery and Annette had heard of a special Easter celebration loaf of fancy bread. She asked the "baker monk" there for the special bread and described it as braided and with eggs. The monk looked very indignant and grabbing a loaf of very plain bread exclaimed, "Eggs!" and waved it at her. OK, so we took the plain bread, although we also bought some apple fritter looking things that were quite tasty. We checked out the small store and found that the primary commodities were soap and booze. Apparently they host a lot of smelly and easily bored visitors.


Gary and Sharon on SV Vingalot arrived shortly after we did. They had left Marmaris a day ahead of us and had spent a very uncomfortable night in an intermediate anchorage, with high winds and dragging anchors. We too were having anchor problems as our chain counter refused to work. A digital readout in the cockpit seems a trivial luxury but we have no backup such as painted marks on the chain. How do we know how much chain we have on the sea-bed? We are expecting bad weather over the next couple of days so we marked a meter of chain and counted the number of rotations of the windlass that it took to move this length. Then we re-anchored in a more sheltered location and Annette stood on the bow to count the windlass rotations. What technology! The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to decipher some hand written notes on the chain counter (written in French of course!).

 

April 24, 2008

At 0600 hours the monastery bells begin to ring and our day begins. They echo across this tiny bay and then in the evenings we listen to the sound of a monk singing as part of the celebration of "Orthodox Easter". While he sings, there are two bells sounding asynchronously and with assonance, while loud fireworks are exploded. This is to scare away demons and bad spirits until after the resurrection - or something like that.

We were up bright and early and dinghied ashore to ride the bus to Simi's main port on the north side of the island. The bus runs twice a day and returns at 1300 hours. Not much time left over for business in Simi. The ride was great, with fantastic views, as we ground our way up a series of switchbacks. The bus slowed frequently for goats and sheep in the roadway and we could see blue skies, blue seas and distant islands with the promise of a clear and sunny day.

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Forty five minutes later we were at the port of Yialos, although everyone seemed to refer to it as "Simi". Our first stop was at the police station where they examined and stamped our passports. Next we traveled to the Custom's office. This officer was next door to the "Duty Free" liquor store and the proprietor told us the Customs man would be back in "one hour". Since we had heard her say that exact same thing to another cruiser as we passed by thirty minutes ago, we placed little credence on the statement. In fact about ten minutes later I heard that he had returned and quickly took my place in line. The Customs agent issued us with a "Transit Log" which is a method of taxing non-Greek sailors. The final stop was at the Harbor Police where a tall "twenty something" girl with a snotty attitude, demanded our boat registration and then announced we were 53 meters in length. I pointed out that these were in fact "feet" and we were only 16 meters. She looked baffled. I should have told her "5 meters" and she would have believed me. She spent most of our interview talking to her boyfriend on a cell phone and waved us away after we had paid our fee. We are legally in Greece!

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After lunch in town we rented a motor scooter and set off across the mountain on the 24 kilometer trip back to our monastery and anchorage. The motor scooter was much more fun than the bus and we were able to photograph every blade of grass, sheep and goat on Simi. We did stop for a strikingly exotic purple flower by the roadside that looked like a Bird of Paradise. It was well that we examined and admired it when we did, as on our next transit it had been eaten by goats.

Back at the monastery it was beginning to blow a little across the small bay. We tested our new control board on our water maker and it did nothing. Rats! We then replaced the "new" technology board with the old one that I had repaired in Santa Fe. This did more but only fired up the pre-feed pump; the remaining functions did not operate. Double Rats!

By now the wind was picking up even more, as had been forecast and I was concerned that we did not really know how much chain we had on the sea-bed. Further, another yacht had anchored directly and close behind us and we could not just dump out more chain and drop back. The solution was to deploy a second anchor and we soon rigged this and I (Ed) deployed it from the dinghy whilst Annette fed me rode and directed me to where I should drop it. Now we could sleep! Of course our actions had startled several other vessels so they too felt obliged to rig a second anchor. It blew hard most of the night with 43 knots in gusts, well off the beam, so that DoodleBug would lurch and strain at her two anchors.

 

April 25, 2008

Everyone was still afloat this morning and in roughly the same position as last night, thus Annette and I mounted our trusty scooter and headed back over the mountain to Simi. Our first stop was at the cell phone store to get a Greek SIM card for our Turkish phone. It was closed. Orthodox Good Friday! We wandered around the village until someone directed us to a newspaper stand. The guy here was selling cigarettes, newspapers and cell phone SIMs! We soon had our SIM installed and we might have bought some minutes but nobody seems to know how to check this and the directions are all Greek to us. Next stop was the internet to examine the weather forecast and we then informed the scooter rental place we would keep our steed for another day. Another lunch in town and we decided to head back to our anchorage and to buy some gas for the scooter on the way. The "only" gas station on the island was closed for "Good Friday". We had enough gas for the return trip but not enough to get back to Simi to give them their scooter back. By the side of the road we saw a man pouring gas from a jerry jug into his car and asked him where we could get gas. He suggested that we try the port refueling station and sure enough this was open and sold us enough to fill our tank - a whole half gallon.

 

April 26, 2008

This morning we ran the generator as usual to recharge the batteries from the night's usage and Annette decided to do a load of laundry whilst we had AC power. About twenty minutes into the wash program, the generator died. I checked the breakers to see if there had been a high temperature overload, caused by the self-destruction of the raw sea water impeller on the cooling pump but everything was normal. I touched the pre-feed switch for the electric fuel pump and it began to tick. Bad news! It was supposed to be glutted with diesel fuel and tickless. We tried changing the fuel filter but when we "primed" the new filter by manually running the fuel pump, no fuel was pushed out of the vent hole. This meant it was either the fuel pump itself, or the unlikely possibility that the feed pipe from the tank was blocked. We had a spare fuel pump onboard and after an hour struggling with recalcitrant bolts that we certainly did not want to break, we had our new pump installed. The generator fired up and the laundry got washed.

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We had planned on an early start to the day but it was already mid-morning before the laundry was hung out to dry in the cockpit. We closed up DoodleBug and dinghied ashore to see if the Monastery's Museum was open. There we met several cruisers who were still waiting for the 0830 hour bus that makes the twice daily run from Simi to the monastery and return. It was pretty late by now and they were dispersing in disgust. We continued upon our museum quest, as this was our third attempt and sure enough found it still firmly locked. They had a gift shop nearby and Annette asked when the museum was to open. The gift shop lady started yelling in Greek. A bored looking girl wandered out of a nearby room and sidled over to unlock the museum door for us and collect our 1.50 euros each. There were in fact two museums and they were a lot of fun. There was a large room full of priestly robes, vestments and crucifixes going back a century or two but off this room was another that was filled from floor to ceiling with model ships and stuffed crocodiles. The explanation for the model ships is that various pilgrims had presented a model of their vessel to the monastery to invoke the protection of the Archangel Michael, patron of the monastery. What Mike had to do with crocodiles remains an Orthodox mystery. The other museum was filled with ancient oil and wine jars and amphorae that had been salvaged from the sea bed, as well as artifacts of clothing, farm tools and furniture of traditional Greek usage. A good visit. We watched from the front steps as a "pilgrim" crawled down the gang-plank of a small ferry boat that had just landed at the monastery dock and proceeded to crawl on his hands and knees towards us. At first we wondered if this man was similar to the "handwalkers" from Eastern Turkey but a few minutes later he was standing and talking on a cell-phone. He was just a penitent pilgrim and this form of penance we have observed in New Mexico during the annual Easter pilgrimage to the Sancturio de Chimayo.

Next on our flight plan was the return of the scooter to Simi. Just as we were about to depart, the "morning" bus showed up some three hours late. I queried the driver on his return schedule from Simi to the monastery in the afternoon and he insisted, "Nine o'clock. 2100 hours!" Wow! Way past our bed-time.

The ride to Simi was really cold compared to the previous two days and we have cancelled our orders for scooters. We will stick to vehicles that provide both protection from the elements and heaters. We managed to convince the lady at the Duty Free that we were about to sail and she sold us a couple of bottles of after dinner liqueurs, which have become in short supply aboard DB. We finally found an "authentic" local cafe and had a fine lunch of grilled pork chop with stuffed tomatoes and stuffed bell-peppers. By now the afternoon was waning so we hired a taxi to drive us back to the monastery. We had not been back more than ten minutes when the bus showed up! There must be a system but it was a total mystery to us.

Our yachtie neighbors informed us that they had chased off a small yacht that attempted to pick up our trip line marker buoy on our second anchor. They had assumed it was a mooring and would have been in for a real surprise if they had put any weight on it.

We now had to make an attempt to get our water-maker functional or radically change our lifestyle. I found the remains of the hardwire harness I had built in Ashkelon and re-installed this into the water maker control board. When we fired it up it was truly welcome to hear the familiar hissing of the high pressure seawater being forced through the reverse osmosis membrane. The chain counter has managed to fix itself, for although I reseated connectors and checked over the various harnesses and sensors, I have no idea what made it work again. We sailors never look a gift chain counter in the mouth. We have stowed and cleared the decks and are ready to sail tomorrow morning.

 

April 27, 2008

This morning began with the excitement of recovering our second anchor. We usually execute this operation from the dinghy, because if the two rodes have become tangled, there is a lot less stress untangling them at water's level, rather than from an 18 ton vehicle that may by now have become detached from the sea bed. The added pressure to this operation is that you may be providing inadvertent entertainment to the balance of the anchored fleet. As it was, the second anchor broke away cleanly from the sea-bed using the "tripping line" we had deployed and was not tangled with the main rode (a tripping line is a light line tied to the crown of the anchor and then to a small marker buoy at the surface). The now working chain counter registered that we had in fact been riding to almost 40 meters of chain during the blow of a few nights ago. A "six to one" scope.

At 0800 hours we set sail for the Island of Khalki some 30 miles SSE of us. When we had topped the Simi mountains on our motor-scooter, we could clearly see Khalki and its companion Alimia, with Rhodes dimly seen to the east of them. The day was noticeably colder than yesterday with 3/4 cloud cover and we motor-sailed with the mainsail in winds of around 12 knots. By the time we reached our destination of the port of Emborios on the

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southeast corner of Khalki, it had begun to rain. The wind was still blowing from the southwest and not a really good direction for anchoring on the north side of the bay at Emborios. Each time we set the anchor it would begin to drag and we were on a lee shore with rocks just a boat length away. This would not do! We retrieved the anchor and set off for Ormos Potamos, a bay on the south side of Khalki and perhaps 3 miles west of Emborios.

This is the time to inject a note about the quality of mapping here. We are using electronic charts that have been derived from paper charts, surveyed who knows when. If you happen to be in a really good place to invade, then the surveying is usually spot on. If there is nothing worth grabbing locally, then the survey is so, so. This seems to be the case in Greece. The charts showing the gross detail are often displaced by a half mile or so but the small detail charts of ports elsewhere are typically spot on. In Greece they are not; displaced by as much as a quarter mile in fact. I mention this because as we left Emborios, we attempted to pass between a small islet and the main Island. The chart showed clear water with a depth of 85 feet. When I saw the depth sounder reach 30 feet we were in hard reverse and turned DoodleBug around in 20 feet of water. Maybe we could have passed through there but it was a risk we did not want to take. We took the long way around and dropped anchor in Ormos Potamos at 1245 hours local time at N 36 13.3' E 027 36.3' The wind was still fairly light and we rode easily at anchor with just one other small yacht in the bay. It was still cold and raining and we decided to defer a trip ashore until the next time we visit. Annette had miraculously fixed a lunch of chicken breast, peas, potatoes and salad whilst we were anchoring, although I don't see how this was possible (the sauce was Italian spices, olive oil, balsamic vinegar; the topping was chopped fresh mint, dill and parsley - Yum!). In addition we had been searching for a mis-stowed charging transformer and had discovered a lost copy of the DVD "Walk the Line" jammed down behind the pilot berth. We settled in to watch this movie but unfortunately, it was so badly scratched, it would not play the last ten minutes where Johnny Cash proposes to June Carter and it all ends happily ever after. At least that's the way I think it ends.

 

April 28, 2008

Last night at around 2200 hours, DoodleBug began to rock from side to side. I poked my head out of the cockpit and noted that the wind had neither increased nor changed direction but nevertheless there was now a short period swell coming from the mouth of the bay and hitting us exactly on the beam. I was a little puzzled at this, since the weather forecast had called for little or no wind overnight. It had rained all night and the rocking motion had become more violent. In addition the dinghy was stowed across the mizzen deck, directly above where we were sleeping and the water inside was sloshing back and forth with the rock. Sort of like trying to sleep inside a dishwasher set on "pot and pans" cycle. By 0330 hours, gear we had not stowed that well, began toppling over and we were grateful that we had remembered to stow the duty free liqueurs we had just bought. No sleep possible now! Time to go.


We lifted the anchor and by following our inbound GPS track, coupled with the radar image, we slid out of the bay and headed out to sea, bound for the island of Karpathos to the southwest. Once outside our so called shelter, there were flashes of lightning and the radar image showed heavy rain cells all around us. The wind was blowing at 18 knots with gusts to 25 knots and we were close hauled and plunging through short, steep 6 foot seas. And it was cold! 63 degrees inside the main cabin. A small bird flew inside the cockpit and rested there uneasily for ten minutes or so. It was some kind of yellow breasted insectivore and disapproved of my trimming the sails. A grey dawn showed the steep cliffs of Karpathos off the port bow. The cliffs looked barren of vegetation and plunged straight into the sea without seemingly a goat hold. Our destination anchorage was described as having a difficult entrance, being but 100 yards wide with rocks either side. The guide book warned that big seas would pile up at this entrance with northwest winds. The winds were blowing from the northwest and I could see breakers crashing against the base of these cliffs. It was still very early and we decided to continue sailing for our next destination of the harbor of Limon Fri on the north coast of the Island of Kasos. Once we had passed the north tip of Karpathos, we altered course more southerly and went from close hauled to a close reach. The relief was instant and DoodleBug came both more upright and increased speed. The wind had also dropped a little to 16 knots while we were under full sail of Genoa, Main and Mizzen at 8 knots over the ground. It occurred to me that this is the first time we have really sailed since Massawa, Eritrea. We did manage a short sail for a few hours off the coast of Gaza but this was really sailing instead of burning diesel. If the temperature had been just 10 degrees warmer it would have been "great" sailing. There had been no sign of human habitation for miles along the coast of Karpathos until we neared the town of Messohori (I think!), a cluster of white limestone homes with tile roofs, perched perhaps one third of the way up the mountain from the sea. The summit of the mountain range was wreathed in dark water laden cloud. There were still plenty of rain cells showing on radar and we had managed to avoid all of them until we were just a few miles from Limon Fri. We put away the main and reefed the Mizzen to perhaps 2/3 and the Genoa to handkerchief size before the rain hit. The deck was lashed with fresh water for a change and DB blasted along at 8 knots in her heavily reefed condition. We emerged into sunshine in time to enter the tiny harbor and tied up alongside at 1330 hours, position N 35 25.1' E 026 55.4'

 

April 28, 2008 - April 30, 2008

Limon Fri is a really laid back kind of place that does not see tourists very often. If the weather is roughish, the ferry boat won't stop here but drops it's passengers at nearby Karpathos. From there you have to see if you can get a ride on a small plane to get home. Our American flag was flying proudly from the dock in front of the whole town and an amazing number of the "locals" would introduce themselves and say, "I'm from the Bronx!" Their accents were terrible and I presume they spoke Greek for the twenty five years or so that they inhabited and ran Greek restaurants throughout New York City. The pattern seems familiar. You are born on some wind blasted desolate island in the Mediterranean and you cannot wait to escape. Twenty or thirty years of urban slum in some far off land and you dream of blue skies and clear waters. You grab your pension and your pot of gold to return and renovate the family goat shed with a three car garage and satellite TV. The cycle can then start over again. Sort of like salmon spawning.

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The weather forecast gives us favorable winds for the sail to Crete on Thursday next and we spent the next couple of days just hangin' and fixing the few odd items that had shown up during the sail here. The year old problem of leaking fresh water into the engine room was finally solved and we swapped out the high pressure relief valve on the hot water heater. We also received some e-mail support from the manufacturer of our water maker and were able to fire up the new control board and remove the hardwired override I had installed when we were in Israel. Tuesday's highlight was our visit to the Internet cafe. While I sat and scrolled through various accounts, Annette was writing postcards nearby and got to play with a large domestic bunny that was roaming beneath the tables in the Internet cafe and nibbling at shoelaces. The bunny's name was "Casserole". We spoke to the coastguard on Tuesday and he handed us a form and asked us to fill it out tomorrow or "whenever".

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On Wednesday several other yachts arrived and tied up at the dock. There was a French vessel "Isis" that had shared the anchorages at Panormittis and Potamos on Khalkis, where we had the awful rolling during the night. Ian and Pattie aboard SV Celtic Spray arrived from Crete and are heading towards Turkey, whilst Mike and Peggy aboard SV Forever were Crete bound like us. Wednesday night was calm and should have been a perfect opportunity for a restful night. Instead we had hammering Greek "rap" issuing from the nearby restaurant, coupled with frequent explosions of huge fireworks. This finally quieted down at 0430 hours. Apparently there ain't much else to do around here.

May 1, 2008

Arrived Crete, Spinalonga Bay. Position N35 15.7' E 025 43.6' All well on board.

 

We had set our alarm clock for 0530 hours and it seemed I had just closed my eyes when it went off. Time to go. We stowed the last few items and made a final check on the weather before backing off the dock and heading out to sea. SV Forever had left perhaps fifteen minutes ahead of us and we could see them in the dawn,

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as we both maneuvered past the reefs and islets guarding the entrance to Limon Fri. The forecast called for very light winds of 5 knots or so but we were experiencing 18 knots of wind from the forecast direction and were soon under sail and close hauled for our first waypoint. We cleared the island and came onto our course for Crete sailing a close reach under full sail until the winds increased slightly and we began to reef the main whilst our speed remained over 8 knots. We sailed thus for four hours and Doodlebug was flying through the water. In the space of two minutes the wind increased to around 23 knots and then dropped to 2 knots as though someone had thrown a switch. The waves had been in the six foot range, short sharp and steep, when they too disappeared as though they had been connected to the same switch. We fired up the engine and motored for the next three hours, until were 6 miles from our destination of Spinalonga lagoon. The wind switch was thrown again and we close reached for the final hour.

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The entrance to the lagoon is guarded by an islet crowned with a massive Venetian fortress. The guide book mention depths of 9 feet over the entrance bar and cruisers previously met had warned of depths less than this. The bottom was easily viewed and looked like clear sand as we edged slowly in. If we were to run aground, we wanted this to be as gentle an experience as possible. The depths did indeed slowly decrease until we were sailing in 10 feet of water and then began to increase again. This lagoon is perhaps three miles long and had at one time been used as a seaplane base. We motored to its southernmost end and anchored off the village of Skhisma at 1510 hours. Ashore we see rows of restaurants, a supermarket and hotels. This will not be the remote Greek Island experience. Our position is N35 15.7' E 025 43.6'

 

May 2, 2008

This morning we finally raised enough energy to get off the boat and dinghied ashore to explore the small town. This is obviously a tourist spot with shoulder to shoulder restaurants, bars, jewelry shops, gift shops and the like. We explored the super market and also found the local hardware and marine supply store. When I enquired at one bar if they had wireless internet, I was told that they could give me a "cable" to connect my laptop but that they did not use WiFi because of the "radiation risk to their employees". I did notice that the same employees were using cell phones however. The girl at the car rental office was impressed with our International driving licenses and exclaimed that she had never seen one before. I mention this because the reason we went to the trouble of obtaining such, was that the guide books had maintained that the Greek rental agencies would be unique amongst the countries of the planet in insisting upon the possession of such documents. So much for guide books! We lined up a rental car for the morrow and eventually drifted back to DoodleBug to complete a lazy day.

 

May 3, 2008

Annette spotted the head of a large sea turtle this morning in our anchorage. Our sea life sightings have become rare phenomena in the Med. This excitement was followed by an early run ashore to pick up our rental car and then we met with Mike from SV Forever to help him get diesel. I wanted to find out about the mythical "duty free" diesel and he needed to buy some more. Mike had said that the gas station was "just up the road". I had been told 2 kilometers. It turned out that Mike's "just up the road" was indeed two kilometers. No big deal

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carrying empty jerry jugs but for the return journey, no fun whatsoever! The mythical "duty free" diesel remains mythical. We delivered Mike and his filled jerry jugs back to his dinghy and then set off to find the local scuba diving operator. Of course this was the single day that he was not in his office but a cell phone call confirmed that he could not service our on-board scuba gear. A visit back to the Internet for more phone numbers and we got the same story for the entire island of Crete. All scuba gear is sent to Athens for service. In the afternoon Annette found a local artist Ioannis Petrakis (www.greek-icons.com) 

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who produces Byzantine Icons using the original natural paints and varnishes. Ioannis produces museum quality work and several of his commissions were for churches. We spent some time at his store / studio learning about the different styles and methods of production.

The weather forecast has been threatening all sorts of blows for the past few days and we are not yet sure what will be produced by a strong northerly blow down the three mile length of the lagoon. So far it has just been a little choppy but we are nevertheless reluctant to leave DoodleBug for extended periods of time.

 

May 4, 2008

This morning we had a few chores to accomplish before setting off sightseeing. I have been procrastinating because I had neglected to re-seal the windlass with silicone sealant since I had opened it a week or so ago
when trying to get the chain counter to work. I spent a half hour cleaning off the old sealant and then resealed the unit before retesting the chain counter. It has stopped working! WTF! I re-opened the unit that was now oozing semi-hardened silicone sealant and checked the wiring. Nothing. I then cut off the old insulation and checked the connections of the sensor to the wiring harness. Everything looks fine but the counter no longer works. In total disgust I have bolted the unit together and will address the problem later this week when my "wa" and inner peace have been restored.

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We dinghied over to SV Forever and picked up Mike and Peggy for a trip to see the ruins of the 4,000 year old Palace of Malia where the famous "Golden Bee" was discovered. The latter is a piece of jewelry whose image has adorned postcards in every gift shop throughout the entire length of Crete for most of the past century. The ruins of the palace have been relatively undisturbed since the destruction of the buildings and it was possible to get a sense of the size and layout of the community. The location is amongst rich fields with a view of the mountains behind and the Mediterranean Sea in front. It must have been quite a pleasant hangout for the Minoans. Of course the volcano of Santorini lies some 70 miles to the north which would be a little too close for my taste.

On our return trip we stopped at a small tavern in the village of Neapoli for lunch. The cook was Maria and maintained that she was the best cook on Crete. In fact the food was great and we sampled the various dishes on her menu. This was also the occasion that Annette decided to try the "Retsina". This is alleged to be a style of Greek wine but to my taste, is more like a wood alcohol and turpentine blend. Maria suggested diluting the retsina with soda water. This did help get the stuff down. Reminded me of drinking cheap wine with lemonade in it during my misspent youth. When we reached DoodleBug, we found that the wind had begun to blow hard across the anchorage. The blow continued throughout the night while the assembled fleet strained at their respective anchor chains. We felt reasonably secure as I had managed to dump another 10 meters of chain on the sea-bed whilst messing with the chain counter.

 

May 5, 2008

This morning it was still blowing hard but we made the trip ashore in the dinghy, while blessing the fact that we had an outboard motor and were not rowing. We were searching for a few odd items at the hardware store but only found the length of wire that was on my list. Back again aboard DoodleBug I checked the continuity and integrity of the wiring from the control in the cockpit to the to the windlass mounted chain counter. Everything checked out as I feared, meaning that the problem must lie inside the sensor itself. Back to the rental car and now we were headed for Agios Nikolaos. This is the next town to the south and is the repository of everything that you can't buy locally. At least that is what the store keepers maintain. I was irritated enough with the dive companies that I decided to service the dive computers myself. I was stunned when I opened the computer to discover that inside the elaborately sealed battery compartment - just a battery. The computer guts are completely sealed off from the user. There is nothing, I repeat nothing to service inside this unit except replace the battery. I actually paid someone to do this for me in New Zealand and was told today that this was way beyond the technical expertise of the local dive shops and would need to be done in Athens. There they consult the Oracle of Delphi for directions. The second part of the dive equipment I need to service is a radio sender for the tank pressure and will need a skinny 19 mm. wrench to remove. I struck out at the hardware store and decided a bicycle store was the place to find such. None in town; you guessed it - to be found in Agios Nikolaos and hence our pilgrimage.

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The road to Agios N. winds along steep sea cliffs with hairpin bends, steep climbs and great views. We noticed a bike shop on the way and pulled into the parking lot. After some shouting we located the proprietor - Axel and he loaned me a wrench. It was labeled 17 mm. and I pointed this out to him but he insisted it was actually, positively 19 mm. It did not look like a 19 mm wrench but we promised to return it on the morrow and set off again. We found a cell telephone store and after considerable experimentation, discovered how to find out how many minutes exist on our pre-paid cell-phone. The next stop was the electronics store to find a battery for our ship's clock. The latter is French and unlike all of the other clocks on the planet, conveniently uses a type "N" battery instead of the universal standard of an "AA". The store was closed. We had forgotten that Greece closes down at 1300 hours. If you are lucky the stores re-open at around 1700 hours; otherwise try again tomorrow. Back at Elounda (the town we are anchored off) the lady from the car rental store recommended a local sandwich place and we had an excellent supper that partially offset the truly disgusting lunch we had purchased on the main tourist drag in Agios N.

 

May 6, 2008

We have been hangin' in Elounda as we have guests joining us on Friday. Daughter Marian and her boyfriend Craig are arriving from Las Vegas, Nevada to play with us for a couple of weeks. In the meantime we have been chasing the odd chore that seems to exact an inordinate amount of time when you are not familiar with the place.


The first task of the day was to return Axel's wrench to him. It did not fit the required part and a set of calipers confirmed that the loaned wrench was 17 mm. as labeled. Surprise! Nevertheless I did extract the recalcitrant device with skinny "Vice Grips" and Marian has already bought the replacement batteries and will be carrying them with her. On the road to Axel's there is a particularly sharp bend and on our approach we could see fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and the like signaling an accident. On our return we saw that it was a single vehicle accident involving a small car, that had broadsided the end of a stone wall and was now on its side at the edge of the cliff. The fireman was standing next to the wreck and smoking a cigarette. He cast the stub down on the road as we passed, indicating a different level of flammability for Greek gasoline than what we are used to.

We later shuttled 100 liters of diesel to DoodleBug in our dinghy and yacht neighbor Mike paddled over to ask a favor. He had torn down his engine raw water pump and found that the bearings were frozen to the shaft and would need a puller. Annette had an errand in Agios N. and we gathered Mike up and drove around Crete until we somehow found the machine shop he was seeking. Ten minutes later, Mike was happy and we raced the clock to find Annette's store before the Island closed down for the day.

 

May 7, 2008

Back to Agios Nikolaos this morning to exchange some of yesterday's purchases. Parking on Crete is really challenging. The streets are narrow with cars parked on both sides of the street. Often you squeeze through a gap watching the mirrors very carefully so that they maintain their integrity as part of the vehicle, when you discover that you are on a two way street and have oncoming traffic. Double parking is a way of life and Cretan Greeks will stop dead in the middle of the highway to chat to a friend. Nobody seems to get upset. I began to park the rental car near the store where Annette had made her purchases and as I was backing into the space, a local lady on a motor scooter, who was both gravitationally and aesthetically challenged, drove into the space I was halfway backed into and parked. She walked off. I was left half way in and half way out of the space. I straightened the car the best I could and waited for Annette to return, whilst the traffic had to ease around me.

At an Internet cafe I found two notes giving useful advice on the chain counter problem. One note maintained that the sensor could be "eased" out of it's holder with the gentle use of a screwdriver. I tried using the plastic body of a ball point pen and a large mallet. Considerable beating produced no discernable result. This is going to take sufficient force to smash the thing.

The wind blew quite strongly across the anchorage and produced a wicked chop. Fortunately the wave size was not large enough to produce a lot of motion aboard DoodleBug and we determined to sit it out rather than seek a more sheltered anchoring spot. The only other vessel here is SV Forever and we have been enjoying sundowners on each other's vessels for the past few days. SV Forever is bound for Malta and has been waiting for a decent weather window for the passage. The wind has been blowing from the northwest for days now, which is the Summer pattern, whilst we are still waiting for Spring.

 

May 8, 2008

The forecast was for a hard blow all day with rain. All of this to come from the north, that is down the long axis of the lagoon where we are anchored. We decided that it was time to move, raised anchor and motored about

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three quarters of a mile to a shallow cove on the east side of the lagoon. There was not much shelter from the winds at this location, as the hillsides seemed to bend and redirect the gusts from all sorts of angles. However the wave action was noticeably diminished, whilst we huddled a boat's length off the rocky shore. The hillside above was covered with ancient stone walls and less ancient sheep. The latter were moving and were accompanied by a man who was making a loud woofing sound. Perhaps he couldn't afford a dog. Nevertheless the sheep and their surrogate sheepdog eventually left, leaving us wondering if they knew something that we didn't. The wind howled and gusted all day long and the rain would lash the deck for a while and then move on. We are supposed to make a run to the airport tomorrow to collect Marian and Craig. The forecast does indicate lightening wind conditions by mid-day tomorrow and we are determined to get ashore no matter how wet we get.

 

May 9, 2008

Airport day! We moved DoodleBug back to our original anchorage and were pleasantly surprised to find that although the passage across the lagoon was quite bumpy, our destination was reasonably sheltered. I might add here that since I beat the hell out of the chaincounter sensor with a large rubber mallet, it has been working perfectly again. There is definitely a moral here and when I figure it out, I will let you know. We dinghied ashore and Annette and I shot off in different directions to run errands; me to buy diesel and she to buy groceries. Next was the run to the airport in the rental car. The signposts for the airport were well hidden but it's position had been betrayed by a descending aircraft and we were not fooled. We parked in the "Tour Buses Only" area and walked to the opposite end of the airport to find the "Arrivals" area. The flight was late. We found a kiosk in the departure lounge to sell us a couple of beers and then sat on the curbstone, people watching. Finally the plane from Athens arrived and we hovered outside the security doors scanning the interior whenever the automatic doors opened to eject a passenger. No sign of Craig and Marian! Finally I spotted a large black tube heading towards me. I recognized this immediately as the sail battens I had asked them to transport for me. Marian came to the exit doors and after some negotiation with the security guard, I went inside leaving Annette still poised with her camera on the other side of the doors. The delay was due to the fact that of their four pieces of luggage, the sail battens alone had made it to Crete. The adventure of air-travel! We filed our lost luggage report and headed back to DoodleBug. They are here and they are safe. We found DoodleBug riding quietly at anchor on almost flat water, the first we have seen since we arrived.

 

May 10, 2008

This morning we rigged the new main sail with it's sail battens and then headed ashore to forage for food, whilst drifting in and out of gift shops. We called the airport to see if the missing luggage had arrived and were told

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the aircraft was late. Finally we did receive a call saying that the missing three bags had arrived. What next? We negotiated that the airline would deliver the three bags by courier to the car rental office we had been using. Great! Thirty minutes later another call from the airline. The courier had refused to make the delivery run because of the "gas station strike" and instead they would send the bags, sometime that evening to Agios Nikoloas via bus. Could we meet the bus? We are perhaps twenty minutes by auto from Agios N. and we have no clue as to where the bus station might be. Crap! We declined the bus solution and resigned ourselves to a couple of hour roundtrip journey back to the airport. The courier story came as no surprise to me, as it is almost Universal amongst airlines to have some reason as to why they cannot deliver your luggage.


We arrived back at the terminal, schlepped the bags to the car and headed back to Elounda. Then we began to notice the gas stations. They really were all closed. There are three flavors of franchised gas stations on Crete and they were all barricaded shut. We were later informed that this strike is for a week to protest the "high price of oil". I am sure that the Saudis are quaking in their camel slippers back in Riyadh. We monitored the fuel gauge in the rental car and were thankful we had added a little a couple of days ago. We might make it!

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On the highway we passed a dreadful wreck involving two cars and a truck. This is the second major wreck we have seen in the past week. Craig mentioned that Greece has the highest accident rate in Europe and I believe it.

Two kilometers outside of Elounda was the gas station where I had purchased diesel yesterday morning. We pulled in and added gas to the tank on the rental car. The first station we have found open on the island.

 

May 11, 2008

What an exciting morning! While I was rigging the new mainsail with it's vertical battens that Marian and Craig had delivered, Annette noticed marine activity at perhaps a half mile from DoodleBug. We could see splashing in the still waters and occasionally a flipper would be discernable. This had to be a turtle. We grabbed the binoculars and confirmed that it was indeed the case but a few minutes later the splashing and the like had not moved. Annette then decided that it was a turtle trapped in some fishing line and was in desperate need of help.

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I maintained that it was simply turtles screwing. Annette grabbed camera and dive knife to cut the entrapping medium and accompanied by Craig and Marian, they set off in the dinghy to the rescue. As it turned out there were three turtles involved in some kind of kinky turtle fornicating threesome and they were too busy and engaged in their activity to pay any attention to the rescuers / paparazzi in the dinghy. By the time I had the main rigged, the photographers were back and both they and the turtles were totally happy with the experience.

Marian had brought us the necessary batteries to service our dive computers and the latter were soon up and running again. That afternoon we visited an Elounda dive resort and made a dive off the nearby reef. It was relatively simple to enter the water as all we had to do was step off the dock at the resort into the sea. This was the first time I have used steel air-tanks with "European" valve fittings. The tanks were noticeably heavier 

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than the aluminum tanks we carry aboard DoodleBug and of course required an adapter so that my newly serviced regulator would fit. Throughout the rest of the world, we have found the "American" style valving to be standard. Not because it is better I was told but because in the era of internet shopping, it is considerably cheaper than the Euro version. For us who have been spoiled by the Pacific and Indian Ocean reefs, the dive was mundane with little sea life. For Marian and Craig however, this was the first time they have dived in salt water since their training in Lake Mead, Nevada. We retired afterwards to the pizza restaurant in Elounda where Craig traded shoulder patches with a uniformed Cretan policeman. Craig is a police officer in Las Vegas and shoulder patch trading is an international tradition amongst officers; sort of like tee-shirt trading at the Olympic games.

 

May 12, 2008

Today we had scheduled another Scuba dive from a boat and this was of a reef that was in far better condition than yesterday's reef off the resort. There were a few corals and lots of interesting fish. My dive was made more interesting in that it had been decided that I would use the smaller volume steel tank for today's dive. The valve adapter had been leaking but since the dive boat carried two other adapters and because the swell was throwing the boat against the dock, we boarded quickly with our gear and left. At the dive site I installed the new adapter and turned on the air. The "O" ring promptly blew out venting a third of the tank's contents. Thus I began the dive with the third adapter in my tank and with two thirds of a small tank of air. Just remember not to breathe too often! Nevertheless the dive was fun and I think that Craig and Marian are now hooked on scuba diving.

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Later that evening we returned our rental car and have become pedestrians again. The wind forecast for sailing from our location in Spinalonga lagoon to the island of Thira (Santorini) some 80 miles to the north has not been good. The forecast has changed rapidly from day to day with little stability, a low prowling to the west of us and strong headwinds forecast for our proposed passage. Tomorrow we will sail for Agios Nikolaos marina to the south where we can safely leave DoodleBug for a few days.

 

May 13, 2008

At 0815 hours we raised anchor and set sail for the northern end of Spinalonga lagoon. We anchored 35 minutes later at N 35 17.69' E 025 44.16' off the Venetian fortress and former leper colony of Spinalonga. By now most of the crew were awake and we grabbed a backpack of refreshments and dinghied ashore onto a stony

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beach. It is well that we carried supplies, as we discovered that the fortress was padlocked and would be opened at 1000 hours. Thus we wandered in the warm sun, beach combing and the like until our beer was consumed and the castle / leper colony wardens had shown up.

The castle colony complex sprawled across the island and was a mixture of early 20th. century buildings in various states of repair, imposed upon a fortress built several centuries earlier at the dawn of gunpowder warfare. The fortress held out for 45 years against the Turkish invasion of Crete but was finally reduced by siege. The site was used to relocate lepers in the early 1900's and was utilized until 1957 for this purpose. It seems incredible to us that these unfortunates were held in such desperate conditions, with virtually no treatment and just half a century ago. We wandered the ruins and Marian grossed out a rather stuffy British couple by asking them if they had found any finger bones. In the afternoon the tour boats began to arrive, discharging hordes of tourists and we took our leave. We raised anchor sailed for the Marina at Agios Nikolaos and at 1415 hours were tied up at N 35 11.2' E 025 43.0' .

 

May 14, 2008

The winds have continued to blow from the north barring a comfortable passage to Thira with our guests. We have booked ferry tickets for tomorrow and spent the day wandering the gift shops and restaurants of Agios Nikolaos. The town is built on a steep sided promontory and the streets are narrow, jammed with parked cars and traffic and cling to the slopes. This is the first place we have stayed where Marian and Craig
can venture off by themselves rather than being marooned aboard DoodleBug at anchor.

 

May 15, 2008

The alarm clock went off at 0430 hours. It seemed that I had just dropped off to sleep and there was this electronic female voice saying, "Good morning! The time is four thirty a.m." Silly bitch! I switched her nagging off. Two minutes later the second alarm clock went off but I was already awake and besides I had set this to "rooster crowing", so it was kinda' funny. Time to get rolling, as the four of us are bound for Thira, the island that forms part of the caldera of the volcano of Santorini. An hour later we were stumbling through the darkened streets to find the bus station. My directions included several turns and the admonishment to "ask anyone". The streets were still black and empty of human presence at 0530 hours. We did find the bus station however and caught the first bus of the day to the ferry terminal at Iraklion. Our ferry boat was a high speed catamaran and we had assigned seating. Our angst rose slightly when the safety briefing advised us to keep our seat belts on at all times and when we also noticed that the windows did not seem to open. As it was, the ferry seemed to rocket along at near forty knots with very little motion as we tried to doze in our aircraft type chairs. Two hours later the ferry was slowing, I had the same crick in my neck that I get from a ten hour flight and the view from the ferry windows was of the soaring cliffs of the inside of the caldera of Santorini. Thirty minutes later we arrived at our hotel in Fira www.tzekosvillas.gr . The view from the rooms was stunning as the hotel clings precariously to the side of the caldera, with a view of the newly forming island in the center. The color of the cliffs ran through the spectrum of blacks and grays with the occasional layer of reddish deposits and against this was the blue of the sea and sky, with the sprinkling of white buildings along the skyline, as though a giant seagull had perched there. The central island of "Nisis Nea Kammeni" had black lava flows that are but fifty years old. This is an active volcano.

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The approach to the hotel had been along steep alleys that were too narrow for four-wheeled vehicles and whose surface bore the organic evidence of mule transportation. We rented a small Hyundai instead of a mule and used the former to drive to the most westerly point on Thira to view the sunset. This was the village of "Ia" and near the tip of the island we found a cove plus a number of fish restaurants. The cove was decorated with the mandatory Greek fishing boats and we ate the mandatory Greek seafood supper, whilst the waves slopped against the rocks. For our guests who had never experienced such narrow roads, with the steep hills, curves and guard-rail-less drop-offs, they now had the enjoyment of experiencing the return journey in the dark. We made it back to our hotel safely, although we could have used the mule from the car park to our rooms.

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May 16, 2008

This morning we planned to visit the archaeological site at Akrotiri. This was the largest Minoan city outside Crete and was discovered and excavated by a Professor Marinatos. About three percent of the site has been excavated and all was covered with deep volcanic ash. What has been discovered so far are three story buildings, elaborate frescoes (wall decorations) and Minoan pottery. The good professor's excavations were interrupted when a wall fell on him, killing him. He is supposed to be buried on the site. I say "supposed" because when we arrived at the parking lot, there was no evidence of the well signposted, famous, archeological digs and museum. There were other tourists wandering along the bleak roadside looking for the exhibits, so we knew we were in approximately the correct location. We then discovered that the site has been closed for three years following another accident with collapsing walls. The barricaded construction site carried a banner proclaiming an allocation of nearly 21 million Euros to refurbish the area. Apparently they could not afford another 100 Euros or so for a sign that read "Closed".

We did hike to the nearby "red sand" beach and although it was a very pretty cove, the sand was colored more rusty brown than red.

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Next stop was the "Wine Museum" near the village of Vothanos in the interior. The museum is on the property of "Volcan Wines" and the wine were produced from 1660 to 1970 in a natural cave, some 300 yards in length and 20 feet below the surface. The Museum depicted life and wine production on the waterless island during this period and had animatronic dummies to demonstrate the various stages in the process. This was not exactly "Walt Disney" quality but was fun to see nevertheless. The early wine makers lived by hunting pigeons and quail on the island, since there was no other game. They lived on a diet of pigeon and fava beans washed down with retsina I suppose. There was no electricity on Thira until the late 1960s and until then, it was either manual labor or donkey power. The donkeys lived in the same cave and added their own odor to the grim and xeric existence of the viniculture pioneers. I found myself wondering how the Minoans managed to support a sizeable colony some 5,000 years prior.

 

May 17, 2008

We had returned our rental car yesterday as the surviving museums are all in the town of Fira where we are staying. We have been assured that the pre-history museum and the archaeological museum both remain extant and the museum worker's strike is itself now a part of history. Marian did ask the lady at the pre-history museum what the strike was about and received the gruff response, "Money". Whatever was the outcome of the strike, the museum workers have been the surliest Greeks we have encountered to date.

Most of the artifacts in the pre-history museum were from the digs at Akrotiri and these were fabulous. The design and workmanship of 5,000 year old ceramics and wall decorations were truly humbling. The museum also had geological maps of the volcano showing the deposits from the various eruptions, plus an estimate of what may have existed before the bronze age eruption that destroyed the Minoan community. This model showed a central lagoon, similar to today, although the caldera was shown as more massive and more complete. I had always thought of Santorini as a cone volcano like Kilimanjaro, that first blew its top during the bronze age. Nevertheless, the eruption in 1300 BC was both immense and devastating. The tsunamis produced would have destroyed all of the local settlements and with Crete just 70 miles to the south and downwind, one can easily believe that this event effectively destroyed the heart of the Minoan civilization and spawned the Atlantis legend. I have been fascinated by Santorini for several decades after reading a comparison of the biblical description of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt (The seven plagues followed by the drowning of Pharaoh's army) coupled with the expected phenomenon of a major and catastrophic volcanic eruption to the northwest of Egypt.

We also visited the archaeological museum and although it too was very interesting, it paled compared to the Akrotiri finds. We were pursued around the museum by employees who were determined to enforce the rule of no camera flash use in "this room" and no photographs of any kind in the "next room". I thought about the four of us separating and heading to different rooms just to see what the guard dogs would do when faced with multiple targets.

In the late afternoon we caught the ferry back to Iraklion where we stayed the night in a hotel. I had asked a taxi driver near the port if he knew our hotel and he remarked that it was only half a kilometer. He presumably decided that we either needed the exercise or maybe that we did not look wealthy enough for the fare.

 

May 18, 2008

This morning we rented a car as we intended to visit the Minoan palace of Knossos before heading back to Agios Nikolaos and DoodleBug. The Palace of Knossos is famous as the domicile of the Minotaur. The mythical beast was kept in a labyrinth by King Minos and fed a diet of young human victims (sort of like the US school system). Theseus unsportingly offed the beast while it was sleeping. The Palace of Knossos was built some 3,000 years ago, supposedly over the labyrinth but we saw no evidence of either labyrinth or Minotaur. This is the largest of the Minoan Palaces and was excavated by Sir Arthur Evans from around 1900 onwards. Evans has been criticized in that he "restored" much of the palace and that some of his work was pure conjecture. Nevertheless this is one of the most visited archaeological sites and to the layman, far more interesting because of Evan's work than say the less adulterated site we visited at Malia. On the return to Ag. Nick we stopped off for lunch at the little roadside cafe in downtown Neapoli where today's special was rabbit. And very tasty it was too.

 

May 19, 2008

Today was a hard blow and we were glad to have DoodleBug in the marina whilst our anemometer showed gusts near 40 knots. We were all in favor of a lazy day aboard DoodleBug, catching up on chores and watching movies. The day's excitement was when the marina staff brought in a 65 ton, steel trawler type vessel alongside us. The trawler had a crew of two, who were in their late sixties / early seventies and the marina staff team were not exactly a well oiled machine. At the time the wind was blowing off her beam at 30 knots and they were having great difficulty controlling the beast. The crews aboard the yachts on both sides watched anxiously, clutching extra fenders in hand whilst the antics continued. We were particularly pleased that we were on the upwind side and less likely to be hit. The saying amongst cruisers is that sometimes you watch the show and sometimes you are the show. Today we got to watch.

 

May 20, 2008

This morning we drove to the traditional village of Krista. A "traditional village" is one where every street is lined with gift and souvenir shops. Annette and Marian were in heaven, whilst I explained to Craig the importance of picking a place in the shade where you could sit. After a pleasant lunch we visited an olive farm / museum where the donkey "Dora" demonstrated how olives were crushed.

SV Forever had e-mailed us saying that they had experienced a terrible passage towards Malta in gale force winds, given up and had run for shelter in Sicily. Peggy had then discovered that she had lost her memory chip for her computer and had probably left it at the internet cafe / bar we had been using in Elounda. On our return to Agios Nikolaos we swung by Elounda and retrieved the errant memory chip. This was an expensive act of mercy as Annette remembered that she had been shopping for some jewelry in Elounda and was now ready to complete her purchase.

Tonight was packing as Craig and Marian fly back to Las Vegas tomorrow morning.

 

May 21, 2008

An early morning drive to the airport on almost empty roads. We have enjoyed Marian and Craig's visit and they have been great guests. We will miss them both. We watched as their bags were checked in and then bade them farewell as we needed to continue west to Iraklion to return the rental car. The rental office was closed, as was most of Iraklion it seemed and the only place we found open was a "Starbucks" coffee house. We were the only customers and I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Cappuccino and carrot cake. By now the auto rental office had opened, the owner had already retrieved his car from where we had illegally parked it and we just needed to hand over the keys.

Next was the bus station for the return trip to Agios Nikolaos. This turned out to be a far more exciting ride than we had been anticipating. The driver was younger than our outbound bus driver and seemed to have an attitude problem. He snarled and yelled at the passengers and would approach a bus stop at speed, slam on the brakes and stop at least a bus length from the stop. The waiting passengers were forced to stumble and hobble according to their physical condition, the dozen or so yards to board. On one stretch of two lane highway he decided to overtake another vehicle just as he approached the stop. A little old lady waved frantically and he slammed on his brakes. He then reversed the bus some 50 yards or so back towards the staggering figure. Annette said she was surprised that he stopped at all and I maintained that the only reason he did was that the lady in question was his mother. Midway through the journey he got upset with the driver of the car ahead while in traffic. He stopped the bus, jumped out of the cab and expostulated with the driver in the vehicle ahead, punching the man's hand when he waved it at him. Then he started an argument with the ticket taker. Our driver was near hysterical with anger and took both hands off the wheel to wave them while he screamed. The argument continued for over ten minutes whilst the bus hurtled along and the passengers in the forward seats gripped the back of the seats ahead with whitened knuckles. We were all happy to see the Agios Nikolaos bus station through the big windshield.

 

May 22, 2008

A typical pre-departure day. We topped up our diesel tank with fuel, paid our marina bill and then with receipt in hand, made the pilgrimage to the custom's office to get our departure documentation. Last minute grocery items and we sail tomorrow morning for Malta.

 

May 23, 2008

Position N 35 17.0' E 025 43.6'
We dropped our lines at 0810 this morning and set sail for an anchorage some 60 miles from Agios Nikolaos, en route to Malta. The forecast winds were supposed to be in the 10 knot range from the WNW with some forecasts showing perhaps lighter winds closer to noon. For two hours we motor-sailed north until we reached the Agios Ioannis Point. Here we were to turn to the west and brave the headwinds along the northern coast of Crete. An obvious problem was visible well before we passed the shelter of the land, in the form of a line of windmills along the Ag. Ioannis ridge top. The windmill arms were spinning like aircraft turbines on take-off. We

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ventured out into the full blast of nearly 30 knots of wind and our speed dropped away to 2 knots. Not today! We spun around and anchored a mile or south, on the northwest side of Spinalonga Lagoon. After lunch we again ventured forth and found the 30 knot blast still stubbornly from the west. Back to Spinalonga and try again tomorrow.

 

May 24, 2008

Position N 35 23.3' E 025 02.6' at 1500 hours UTM.

We received a wake-up call this morning when the cell phone rang at 0230 hours. Helen had heard from her sister that we intended to leave at 0300 hours and believed the rumor. Ah well, by now we were awake and at 0300 hours we raised anchor and set sail towards Malta. We made an instrument exit from Spinalonga by GPS track and radar but by now this route was becoming familiar. Once outside we motored with an overcast sky and light winds until we reached yesterday's turnaround point off the tip of the cape. The wind was blowing at near the forecast 10 knots from the west and we motored our way into it and along the northern coast of Crete. Dawn was spectacular with fire along the eastern horizon and the wind shifted slightly so that we were able to rig the main sail and gain a slight speed increase.

Near 0700 hours we were passing between two trawlers in clear conditions when the nearest made an abrupt turn across our bows. He was so close when he made the turn that if we had not been on watch we would have hit him.

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At first we did not see the trawl he was towing and began to cross his stern but swung off again as we spotted his cable. Was this an insurance trap? It seems that the Gulf of Mexico is not unique in their hostile fisherman.

By 0900 hours the winds had begun to build in strength and the seas were also building a steep 5 to 6 foot chop with a boat length between crests. We began to look for possible shelter as the nearest guide book listed anchorage was still four hours ahead. The winds and seas continued to build and we changed course to seek shelter behind the headland of Agia Pelagia. For the 8 or 9 miles of our approach, the winds were gusting from 30 to 35 

knots and 6 to 8 foot waves were sweeping the deck. So much for a ten knot forecast! We eased into the shelter provided by a hook of land and the waves and wind died away. At the point of the coast we had selected, there is 

resort.jpg (319654 bytes)

some kind of high-end resort and next to it a small beach where we dropped anchor at 1020 hours. I hoped that the isolated resort might have unsecured WiFi internet access and at first this seemed to be the case. Unfortunately our explorer program directed us to a screen that demanded password access. Rats!

For the remainder of the day we have watched the whitecaps whipping by just north of us, indicating a howling headwind. The forecast does show lightening winds near midnight but we have diminished faith in the forecasted conditions.