Messina Straits to Tropea

Two years ago, we sailed from the Aeolian Islands through the Messina Straits going south.  This morning at 6:30am we sailed the straits going north, sailing from Reggio to Tropea. The Strait is 20 miles long and from 2 to 10 miles wide, funneling the Ionian Sea into the Tyrrhenian Sea and vice versa.  You are able to see the energy in the water. look long enough and you are bound to see a whirlpool forming. We began so early because we knew the current would be flowing south by 7:30am, 4.5 hours after high tide in Gibraltar.

Frosty was a bit skeptical at being underway by 6:30 am, even with a Nespresso in his hand but soon we were surrounded by the ‘passarelles’ or felucas, for the swordfish fisherman. Watching them move towards a sword fish at a rate of knots is quite startling.

Felluca or passarelle, a swordfishing boat
Felluca or passarelle, a swordfishing boat

The boats are about 40 feet long and the mast is about 50 feet high and the skipper steers from that lofty position.

Captain and first mate up 50 feet into the air, Messina Straits
Captain and first mate up 50 feet into the air, Messina Straits
The harpooner walking out on the passerelle
The harpooner walking out on the passarelle. Look at the rooster tail.

After getting through the Messina Straits with a sighting of one swordfish( or was it a tuna?), a slight whirlpool trying to form and quite a bit of current. We sailed up the coast to Porto di Tropea.  Only 30 miles from the Aeolian Islands and a charming, neo-classical town, in a slight state of ruin, there is a lot to like.  The outstanding feature has to be the beaches. Surrounded by tufa, the beaches are superb. Odysseus never talks about beaches, does he? The beaches here are sensational. There were incredible beaches up the coast from Reggio di Calabria.

Tropea Beach, Calabria
a Tropea Beach,  Calabria

I tried to get James and Frosty smiling while in the Messina Straits, but in that photo they looked liked they had seen Charybdis. They liked the beach though.

Beautiful beaches
Beautiful beaches

Our journey so far (sorry, you have to copy & paste the link)

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zkkfRzDGj2mE.kO4m-3hTL-cs

Efcharisto (Thank You) Greece! Buongiorno, Italia!

We had our last night in Greece in the small harbour Ormous Ammou on the Nisos Othoni.  There on this small outer island, north of Corfu, one would have found a Venetian lighthouse and medieval fortress, with views over to Albania. We had two days on Corfu with Ric and Sandy, what was one highlight you ask? The boys might say it was watching Lateen rigged boats sail on Corfu harbour. Once the sail was in they rowed. How would Davo go with all that weight?

Lateen Rigged Boat - Corfu Harbour
Lateen Rigged Boats – Corfu Harbour

We had time to sit on board and think about how much we enjoyed Greece, how hospitable the people were, how beautiful the harbors and bays are.   Its history is the history of Western democracies. I feel the connection all the way back to Athena and Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary. The food is superb and fresh fruits and veggies are so ripe and wonderful.

North Corfu beaches
North Corfu beaches

All through this trip, we have wondered if there would be trouble travelling in Greece, with the IMF and Angela breathing down Greek’s neck. We haven’t had one difficulty, not with diesel or ATM’s or any of the myriad problems that travel agents in Europe had been forecasting like ancient Jocastas.

Sail past Albania
Sail past Albania

 

So my take is: visit Greece, it is inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe, it has something for everyone and it is beautiful.  The food is wonderful and so are the people.

leaving Greece at daybreak
leaving Greece at daybreak

 

Today we have sailed across to Santa Maria di Leuca, Italia. Usually we are on the lookout for ships, lobster pots and dolphins, but today we narrowly missed hitting a tree.  Ok, afterwards we reassessed “tree” and think maybe it was a big shrub, but it seemed to pop up as we glided right by it. It was quite strange but we think a storm might have taken it off a cliff and it was floating just below the surface until we went by.  Soon after, beautiful dolphins did come and play with us jumping up two by two for several minutes.  We think they were saying “Buongiorno”.

Sailing the Inland Sea, Ionian Islands

If your route constitutes sailing to windward, there may be no better place to sail/motor than the inland sea. Sailing from harbour to anchorage through this area is a dream. Why you ask?  You can easily get up early and get to your next anchorage with light winds, get anchored in time for morning coffee before the wind gets fresh.  Get off the boat for the afternoon sightseeing and have dinner ashore, then by about 9:00 the wind has died down and the boat is quiet for a good night’s sleep. We call it the Gentleman’s Breeze. You have plenty of time then to walk around and enjoy the sights, shop or find a bakery.

Garlic Ropes
Garlic Ropes

If you want to sail, hopefully going south, then you have a sleep in, morning coffee, sail to a lunch spot, swim and in the early afternoon the breeze comes in and you can sail for miles under fresh breezes.

Kioni Harbour
Kioni Harbour

Jimbsail.info is a wonderful resource for sailors sailing in the Mediteranean  and he has information about the Inland Sea of the Ionian enclosed by Kephalonia, Ithaka, Mainland Greece, Meganisi and Preveza. In all the Med, this is sailing that most reminds me of Sydney Harbour. The Inland sea is good area for novices and families. It is a great place to sail in Greece and not have to work around the Meltemi or struggle going to windward.

The Inland Sea
The Inland Sea

The captain and crew on Mercier, have wooden boats in their veins. Squadron friends know Ric and Sandy have the lovely classic yacht, Rapunzel. On Ithaca, both In Vathi and Kioni, we spotted the classic wooden yacht Rubicon, and Rubincon’s owners, Lance and Charlotte.  They are also members of the Cruising Association.  Hello quickly turned into a chat about wooden boats and their beautiful Rubicon, which they will keep in Greece. Lance calls this “resonance”, finding people with a shared interest and continuing to bump into them.

Saint Nikolas's Cave
Saint Nikolas’s Cave

So our last few days have taken us to Vathi and Kioni on Ithaca as well as Porto Spilia, Meganissi after a swim near St Nicolas’s Cave.  We are enjoying the trip, even though we are moving, but Sandy and I decided it is just the right pace.

Gaila and Sandy
Gaila and Sandy

Meanwhile, fair winds to Rubicon, Charlotte and Lance.  We’ll see you in Sydney.

 

Kythera, Porto Kayio and Eleafonisos

From the Roman times and perhaps earlier, sailing from Crete to Kythera and the Peloponnese has been fraught with gusty winds and wild waves.  We left Crete a day early and early in the morning to beat the encroaching low weather system to Kythera.

It was an ten hour sail to Avelomona, southern Kythera but there were local boats in the small, crowded harbour. We decided as it was getting windy to press on to Dhiakofti. As we approached the ferry harbour of Dhiakofti, we saw the wreck of a cargo ship implanted on the side of an islet.  We were feeling very sensible about getting there in good weather.

wreck off the entrance to Dhiakofti
Wreck off the entrance to Dhiakofti

There is a ferry wharf at Dhiakofti and there was a space for us to tie up. There are stores and rent a cars there too, but they only open when the ferry comes in. Within thirty minutes of mooring, the winds were coming in at over 25-30 knots. We were happy to be tied up in the quiet harbour. The next day, James rode the bike into town and as it was Wednesday, every business was closed for the day. No taverna or mini-mart, no hotel or cafe, no one walking around or working in their gardens, it was incredibly quiet.

We departed on a grey Thursday morning for the lovely island of Elafonisos. A small harbour and a glorious beach, but the water temperature was only 20 degrees, a bit chilly on this early morning.

Elafonisos beautiful beaches
Elafonisos beautiful beaches

Given the weather, we pressed on to Porto Kayio, a small, snug harbour in the Peloponnese, the taverna here was open with two other boats from Australia, two from Germany and one each from Sweden, France and England.

Porto Kayio
Porto Kayio

Today we sailed up the coast to Kalamata, after sailing past the cape Ak Tainaron. In ancient times, it was called Tenaron, the entrance to the Underworld.Barren and empty,we were more taken with the mountains behind the hilly, green coastline.

Verdant Pelonpponese
Verdant Pelonpponese

I can see why Nero wanted to build the Corinth Canal. In the future, we will sail through the canal and visit these harbours on ferries. It is definitely worth visiting but it is a tough sail.

Chilling in Chania

Sometimes it takes a combination of elements to bring out the best in a place, a person or a task.

Cania seems to bring the three elements of Greek: Xania, Ottoman Turkish: Hanya and Venetian: Canea to create the superb town of Chania.

We ate in wonderful restaurants, walked Venetian fortresses, visited the mosques and the churches.  One Venetian palazzo was roofless but housed a quirky restaurant with trees growing in the midst of the tables.  The streets are narrow and winding, reminding us that a narrow windy path is easier to defend against pirates.  Pirates like the dreaded Barbarossa had a cave full of followers and ships not far away.

narrow lanes, Old Town Chania
Narrow lanes, Old Town Chania

We walked the Venetian Breakwater, that was full of fisherman, families taking walks out to the lighthouse and a film crew filming a soap opera or ad.

Barbara watching the fishermen on Venetian breakwater.
Barbara watching the fishermen on Venetian breakwater.

The town was so beautiful that we weren’t without cameras in our hands.

photogenic Chania
photogenic Chania

Barbara, wisely, decided to return home from Chania rather than sail to Kythera with us. So far we haven’t seen a ferry.  We had a wonderful dinner one street back from the waterfront.

Restaurants and bars are great in Chania,
Restaurants and bars are great in Chania, Barbara’s farewell dinner

The sunset was wonderful and James left the boat to go and take this photo of the Venetian Lighthouse.

Chania Twilight
Chania Twilight

Chania gave us a warm welcome and I can forsee a visit to Crete without a yacht to walks its gorges and canyons and see the middle and southern part of the island.

Kalki, Karpathos and Sitia

We motor sailed south from Symi to Kalki. We pulled into the small but colorful harbour about lunch time, tying up to the ferry wharf. That gave us four hours to explore the village before the ferry docked and we retreated to anchor.

Kalki Harbour, amazing clear water
Kalki Harbour, amazing clear water

We went for a walk in the village, Kalki used to be a sponge diver’s island but then the sponges died out and many people from Kalki migrated away.
Tourism seems to be the new economy for Kalki. There are colorful B and B’s and apartments for rent. Tavernas line the harbour shore. It is quiet and lovely with sandy beaches.

Kalki Taverna
Kalki Taverna

The next morning we were met by dolphins, they were so petite and friendly.  We were on our way to Karpathos, then Kasos in an area Heikell calls sea-swept.  They are the two most southerly islands of the Dodocanese, in a very angry sea.  Heikell certainly called it right, confused seas were the order of the day. Predicted wind was 15 knots but we had almost 20 knots as we got close to Karpathos. We went into a narrow opening between high hills of rocks, to the abandoned village of Tristoma.  The wind howled all night and my active imagination thought of what would happen if a rock tumbled in behind us and we were captured in the inlet.  There was no phone service, not even an SOS service.

We left at first light the next day, with the wind on our nose on the course for Kasos. A decision was made, it was a longer trip but a tight reach to go straight to Sitia, Crete. By this time, we weren’t surprised with our 25 knot breeze and waves slapping Mercier from every angle. Things were a bit wet in the cockpit, even wet down below. We were thrilled  being greeted by dolphins on our way into Sitia Harbour, a day early but safe and sound. James’ sister, Barbara, flew in almost simultaneously.

James and sister Babara
James and sister Babara

Sitia is a quiet town and we ambled up to the Venetian Castle, had baklava for afternoon tea, a reward for doing the laundry by hand. The three of us wandered around people watching at the tavernas. Backgammon and cards were being played at many tables. We enjoyed the respite from the drenching waves and prepared for our next adventure.

Taverna Time
Taverna Time

 

Farewell Turkey, hello Greece

Richard Niebuhr said “Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys.” James and I discuss what it means to leave Turkey, which we are very fond of, which we enjoy and its history we are amazed by. But the farewell is tinged with only a small feeling of sadness, because we hope to come back again. When sailing, we are almost by definition looking forward.
The planning, down to hours and days that one requires to sail, adds to the feelings one experiences in the new port. We pray for good weather and we wait for it. Wednesday”s five hours of sailing with fluky winds, is like a penance we do to get to a prize.

Thank you, Turkey.  We have had a great time
Thank you, Turkey. We have had a great time

Wednesday’s prize is Symi. Here is an island of Neoclassical houses, stacked up the hills surrounding the bays of the islands. It is an island where oregano runs wild by the road. Churches have pride of place and wonderful views. Another penance is walking up hills to get to the views and Symi affords plenty of hills.  Symi is a jewel, with wonderful tavernas, shops and cafes and beautiful churches.

Symi - a beautiful town
Symi – a beautiful Neoclassical  town

We hike up to the Chora and stop for a coffee at the Olive Tree, while waiting for our coffee, a pack train of horses bring building materials up the hill.

Hill town deliveries
Hill town deliveries

After our quiet respite in the Marmaris Yacht marina, we were back on a town quay in Symi. We had forgotten about the duf duf music and parties on nearby yachts. There would have been 20 people on the 70 foot yacht next to us, singing, dancing and partying until 5:00am. No amount of earplugs blocked their good-humored noise. Ah yes, now we remember. Amazingly, they left before the rosy fingers of dawn on to their next destination.  Thursday’s excitement was watching new arrivals collecting other yachts anchors. This is a game where the goal is for a boat to manage to keep its anchor ensconced in the mud, while other boats see their anchors come unstuck.  Our new arrivals brought our neighbour’s anchor up to the surface interlocked with their own. Excitement.

Symi, looking from the top of the island
Symi, looking from the top of the island

This morning we are on our way to Kalki, heading southwest and saying Hello Greece.

The journey so far:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zkkfRzDGj2mE.kO4m-3hTL-cs

Marmaris Yacht Marina

“Where are you? Where is the blog?” The truth is this part of the proceedings isn’t what we would consider the glamorous portion of the trip. You’ll notice that even our dearest friends don’t sign up for the very beginning of our trips.

The teak is being refitted in places, the head has been reseated and cracks in the gel coat are being repaired and the swimming platform has been reinforced. Our Dock n Go had a visit from Nicolas, who has carefully adjusted the new “brain”. The ZF Dock n Go system over promises in our humble opinion, but Beneteau has decided to create Beneteau Dock n Go specialists (the manifique duo: Jean and Nicolas), which has been a wonderful boon to restoring the confidence of Mercier’s Crew. Fingers are crossed.

We spend our days moving between Yacht Marine and the town of Marmaris. James is so lucky that Marmaris is not an exciting shopping centre like Kas, Istanbul or Kalkan, so that shopping doesn’t keep me from polishing the stainless. Marmaris is however, ship chandler heaven, everything for boats in several different chandlers in town.

Dream - seems a great name for a boat.
Dream – seems a great name for a boat.

We have met several lovely people here at Yacht Marine. There is a pool, a lovely restaurant, a ship chandlers, The Library, a reading room which has free wifi. The ladies in the office are very helpful and friendly; they also have wifi, so see us regularly.

In Turkey, they have a law about sim cards, which no one has clearly explained to us. If you are going to be in Turkey over two months, then do not buy a sim for your own phone. If you do buy a sim for your own phone after two months, it will be disconnected until you pay a substantial tax. No one mentions this at any of the Telco offices. Instead buy an inexpensive phone in Turkey and use that phone. There might be other strategies, but we are just going to those places with free wifi.

There is a large live aboard contingent at the Marmaris Yacht club and they have a very interesting social club which includes tours around Turkey.

Boat watching is the activity du jour each and every day here. Beautiful gulets, extraordinarily large motor yachts and catamaran, small yachts and it is like a ballet watching the travelers take large and small yachts in and out of the water. But like every big town, there is always one neighbour that likes to “collect” and Yacht Marina is no exception. We hope to be ready to sail very soon, wish us luck.

Steptoe and Sons go sailing
Steptoe and Sons go sailing

 

We find ourselves in Marmaris

One of the immutable facts of sailing is that first the weather, then the boat has control over where you are going. Louise, Frosty and James and I were all set for a lovely night at My Marina in Ekincik but the boat decided to spit the dummy. It resolved itself, but since we had left so early, we decided the wiser course of action would be to go straight to Marmaris.

Marmaris is a beautiful harbour with mountains coming down to meet the sea in almost circular fashion. Marmaris is famous for its barbers and fire shaves, many restaurants and beautiful harbour, with four marinas in the vicinity. Mercier will winter here on the hard stand in the marina.

Marmaris Harbour
Marmaris Harbour- just one aspect

We woke up to a perfect sunny day on Netsel Marina and with great efforts from Frosty and Louise, James managed to wash the sails and get them dried and folded ready to be stored for the winter. Swanno will be happy to know that Louise gave the stainless another polish and James is having a cover made to keep the cock pit under cover.

In the evening, we wandered round Marmaris enjoying sculptures and fountains that dot the large Town Quay. The fountains are quite a vibrant area full of fisherman and children, who come in the cool of the evening to watch the spectacle.

Fish spouting water on the walk to Youth Square
Fish spouting water on the walk to Youth Square

The Octopus is on the Town Quay and at night looks quite mysterious, with it’s iconic eyes looking for prey.

Our favorite sculpture is Octopus, with the head of an alien
Our favorite sculpture is Octopus, with the head of an alien

We wandered about town finding a rooftop terrace, whiling away the time watching boats moving about the harbour, docking and people enjoying posing for photos on the town quay.

Louise and James
Louise and James

Frosty and Louise have left for Istanbul this morning. They are headed for the glamourous port of Istanbul. We wish them a safe flight home and hope they take good notes in Istanbul for us.  We managed to have some fun last night with the local ice cream man. In Turkey, even selling ice cream is a chance to be a “showman”.

The Showman of Ice cream sellers in Marmaris
The Showman of Ice cream sellers in Marmaris.  More. Weezy?

This will be the last blog until we are in Istanbul. It isn’t exciting to hear about cleaning and packing, but hopefully we will have things to report from Istanbul.

Kalkan, Cold Water Bay and Wall Bay Restaurant

We had a lovely afternoon and evening in Kalkan, we swam, saw a turtle, shopped and enjoyed some wonderful Moet left by Rene and Richard. Very appropriate as we had a slightly late birthday celebration for Louise.  Thank you Commodore and Mrs Chapman. We then had a great dinner of Turkish mezes and desserts at the Olive Garden.

Moet and Japanese Rice crackers
Moet and Japanese Rice crackers

On the way back to Mercier, we spied Aladdin’s lamp and Frosty was busily making wishes.

Frosty, busy making wishes
Frosty, busy making wishes

The long sail from Kalkan to Butterfly Valley, was punctuated by rock formations and fault lines, but once you get to Butterfly Valley and Olu Deniz, para-gliders are numerous. Colourful and almost dangerous, the para-gliders sail close to the shrouds and close to the mountain. They seem to land so close to sunbathers on the beach, a worry if you are on the shore.

We spent more time at Gemiler Island and swam at Cold Water Bay, where two men from a gulet climbed the cliff and jumped off to Cold Play and the roar of the crowd. Once back on board the gulet, they marched around with a giant Turkish flag to a Turkish marching band.  We decided to return to rustic Wall Bay Restaurant. Here we were immediately surrounded by Russians.  Five boats sailed in one after another, each with two men and six women.  The Russians were female, beautiful, about 22 years old and in very brief bikinis. Men on Mercier, and the boats around us, on the dock and boats across the way turned as one and focused laser like stares onto the Russian derrieres as they tied the boats onto the pontoon.

We had wonderful calamari, meze and sea bass sis kebab for dinner. The food at this remote but charming Turkish restaurant is authentic and so is the raki and the entertainment.

Raki with turkish coffee at 10 PM, Louise was ready  to dance.
Raki with turkish coffee at 10 PM, Louise was ready to dance.

We had seen this gentleman perform earlier in the evening with an Anatolian flute. For the Mercier crew, he sang a song about raki, while playing on a baglama, which is a similar to a mandolin.  We came back to the boat and listened to music, sang and danced to Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen.

In the morning, we headed over to Deep Bay for a swim and passing Sarsila Bay, we spied a flotilla with a gulet and Mariner Boating flags, we motored over to have coffee with Trevor and Maggie.

Maggie and Trevor - Mariner Boating Flotilla
Maggie and Trevor – Mariner Boating Flotilla

We had coffee and a tour of their gulet, seeing over the entire boat. It was great to catch up in Turkey and we may be joining them for a gulet trip in a few years. It would be fun to have someone else do the cooking.  Just ask Maggie.

Happy Belated Birthday Suse, hope you saw our Facebook message