#1 2011-09-23 11:42:14

Simon and Joanna Bound
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From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

CALADH's Log (V34)

"Caladh" is our Victoria 34 sloop built in 1990.

We purchased her in November 2003 and kept her in Sparkes Marina near our home on Hayling Island for four years. From here we cruised extensively on the south coast, the west country, the Channel Islands, Brittany and Normandy.

In April 2007, we set off on a slow cruise towards the Mediterranean. That summer we cruised the coasts of Brittany and the west coast of France, as far as La Rochelle. In June 2008 we crossed Biscay to Gijon in Northern Spain and spent the summer on the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal, leaving the boat in Faro on the Algarve for the winter. In 2009 we sailed from Faro through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean. We spent the summer cruising southern Spain, the Balearics and Sardinia, leaving Caladh in Cagliari for the winter. In 2010 we cruised from Sardinia to Sicily, Malta and Calabria in southern Italy, reaching the Ionian Islands of Greece in August. We have been based in Greece since 2010.

In 2011 we cruised the Peloponnisos in southern Greece and the Argolic and Saronic Gulfs and in 2012 we visited Evia and the Northern Sporades. In 2013 we cruised Albania, Montenegro and Croatia. In 2014 due to other commitments we cruised the Northern Ionian re-visiting some old haunts and exploring some new,  before over-wintering in Messolonghi in Greece again. In 2015, we decided to leave Messolonghi to explore new cruising areas and cruised northern Greece and the islands of the Eastern Sporades. We spent 2016 in the Dodecanese Islands in the eastern Aegean. Caladh is currently based in Leros and is for sale as we are planning to buy another yacht. A more detailed account of our adventures is contained in the following pages:

Chichester to Cameret - June 2007
Camaret to Sauzon - July 2007
Sauzon to Les Sables d'Olonne - August 2007
Charente to Maritime - October 2007
Rochefort to Gijòn - May 2008
Ribadeo to A' Coruna - June 2008
A' Coruna to Baiona - July 2008
Baiona to the Algarve - August 2008
Faro to Gibraltar - May 2009
Gibraltar to Ibiza - June 2009
Ibiza to Sardinia - July/August 2009
Sardinia - August to October 2009
Sardinia to Sicily - May/June 2010
Aeolian Islands, Malta and Sicily - June/July 2010
Sicily to Greece - August/September 2010
Greece - June 2011
Methoni to Koiladhia - June/July 2011
Saronic Gulf to the Ionian Islands - August to September 2011
Messolonghi to the Gulf of Volos - May to June 2012
The Northern Sporades - June to July 2012
Greece to Albania, Montenegro and Croatia - May and June 2013
Croatia - June and July 2013
Going Single – Messolonghi to Corfu -Spring 2014
Messolonghi to Northern Greece – May to July 2015
Northern Greece to Samos - September to November 2015
The Dodecanese Islands - Summer 2016

Caladh.jpg

Last edited by Simon_Bound (2017-01-31 12:43:37)

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#2 2011-09-24 09:20:42

Simon and Joanna Bound
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From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Chichester to Cameret - June 2007

Joanna.jpg

After three weeks spent preparing our house for letting and making sure the boat was ready, we finally sailed from Poole for France on 28 April. We enjoyed excellent sailing with moderate north-easterly breezes, enabling us to reach the north Brittany coast in a week, with stops in Cherbourg and St. Peter Port on Guernsey. We planned to spend some time on the north Brittany coast revisiting places we had visited and enjoyed on earlier trips – Lezardrieux, Pontrieux, Treguier and Trebeurden and had very pleasant stops in each of these attractive ports.

However progress through May was a bit slower than we had hoped as the weather deteriorated and a long series of Atlantic depressions tracked across northern France, bringing wet and windy weather. Over the Whitsun weekend a severe gale hit Brittany with winds blowing force 8-9 for 24 hours and gusting up to 44 knots. Luckily we were safely tied up in Trebeurden marina but the local paper told sad tales of loss of life and property.

June has so far brought sunnier and more settled weather and in the last week we have sailed into new areas to which we have not ventured before. We sailed from Trebeurden to L’Aber Wrach, on the north west tip of Brittany, including negotiating the narrow and rocky channel between Roscoff and the Ile de Batz, which was an interesting pilotage challenge but well worth it for the scenery on the island. We also experienced the ”houle” for the first time, a large Atlantic swell which affects this coast and can make for lively sailing and queasy tummies ! The picture above was taken as we left Trebuerden early in the morning at first light.

We spent a pleasant weekend in L’Aber Wrach, particularly enjoying time spent moored at the top of the estuary in the peaceful and pretty little port of Paluden. We then sailed through the Chenal du Four, a passage about which we had been told many horror stories of rough seas. In the event it was calm and benign for us, despite a little fog to keep the adrenalin pumping and we enjoyed a great sail down to Cameret sur Mer, where we are currently moored. Cameret is a small seaside resort and fishing port just south of Brest and the coastal scenery in the surrounding area is spectacular – high cliffs and beautiful beaches. We plan to stay here until Saturday and then spend a week exploring the Rade du Brest and the Baie de Douarnenez before heading south through the Raz de Sein and on to southern Brittany.

We have settled well into the cruising lifestyle and are enjoying seeing new places and facing new sailing challenges. The excellent North Biscay pilot book we were given by Simon’s colleagues before we left has certainly been well used and much appreciated.

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#3 2011-09-24 09:27:32

Simon and Joanna Bound
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From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
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Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Camaret to Sauzon - July 2007

After a lovely week in Cameret in the early June sunshine, we left at first light and motored through a misty Rade de Brest and into the Aulne River, where we spent two enjoyable days at Port Launay and Chateaulin. The river is very beautiful and peaceful, as it meanders through the French countryside and is well worth a visit. As we entered the river a group of three dolphins swam past the boat, one of a number of sightings we were to enjoy in this area. After a night at anchor in the Rade de Brest we continued south into the Baie de Douarnenez. Although the bay is lovely with many sandy beaches, Douarnenez was playing host to the start of the Mini Fastnet race and was crowded with 6.5 metre racing yachts so after one night we decided it was time to brave the next major tidal gateway - the Raz du Sein.

As advised in all the pilot books, we timed our passage to pass through the Raz at slack water and on a calm day we sailed through with no difficulty. However the bleak cliffs, guarded by two large lighthouses, combined with the swirling water leave the distinct impression that it could be a grim place in nasty weather.

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Simon passing La Vielle lighthouse in the Raz du Sein

We had a very uncomfortable night on a mooring off St. Evette due to a large swell into the bay, resulting in one of our mooring lines shearing right through in the night (thankfully we had two!) as well as everything falling out of cupboards as we rolled violently from side to side. Not much sleep was had so we were pleased to move on the next day, rounding the Pointe de Penmarc’h in a south westerly force 5, which kicked up a large sea as we kept well offshore to avoid the many rocky hazards along this coast. This marks the official start of southern Brittany and we hoped it would bring more settled weather but it was not to be as the latter part of June and early July were marked by strong winds and frequent rain. However, hearing the news of severe flooding in parts of the UK, we count ourselves very lucky.

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Another sunny day in Brittany, taken from our mooring at Benodet

We spent an enjoyable couple of weeks in the attractive ports of Loctudy, Benodet and Concarneau. Our visit to Benodet coincided with a week of classic yacht racing and we were able to watch Pen Duick, Gipsy Moth and other beautiful yachts sailing in and out past our mooring. We liked the lively walled town of Concarneau despite a very wild and windy Sunday when the wave break of the marina behind which we were moored seemed inadequate to stop the waves whipped up by a very strong south westerly wind. From Concarneau we sailed to Lorient and then onto Quiberon, enjoying some great sailing in fresh breezes. 

After a few days in Quiberon we sailed into the Golfe du Morbihan, a beautiful large natural harbour dotted with a myriad of small islands. Over the last couple of weeks we have spent time on a mooring at Le Bono in the Auray River, where we had a couple of particularly lively dinghy trips ashore as the combination of force 6 winds and strong tides whipped up a lively sea. We then spent a few days in the old city of Vannes. It was good to be moored right in the heart of the city, despite the challenges of manoeuvring in and out through the very narrow canal into the port, as a rally of 20 English yachts tries to come the other way!  We have also spent more peaceful time anchored off the Ile aux Moines, our favourite Ile d’Arz and Ile Berder. We left the Morbihan at the beginning of this week to visit Belle Ile and are currently in the lovely harbour at Sauzon, enjoying the coast of the aptly named “beautiful island”. Time and weather permitting we may also visit the smaller islands of Hoedic and Houat  (pronounced “what” – as in that !!) before coming home for a few days at the end of July to celebrate Simon’s brother Michael’s 60th birthday.

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'Tessera' at the Ile aux Moines in the Golfe du Morbihan on 14 July.

We unexpectedly met Ken and Elizabeth (Victoria Shadow Association members with their yacht 'Tessera') when they motored past our mooring at the Ile aux Moines, having just left Vannes. They stopped overnight and we spent a very pleasant evening swapping stories. They have been considerably more intrepid than us, having visited the West Country, Scilly Isles and the coast of France as far as La Rochelle since the end of May, despite the weather and a French fisherman's blockade of some ports in the west of France. When we met them they were making their way gradually home.

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#4 2011-09-24 09:35:26

Simon and Joanna Bound
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Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Sauzon to Les Sables d'Olonne - August 2007

Caladh_Sept_2007.jpg

In late July we took a short break from sailing to return home for a few days for Simon’s brother Michael’s 60th birthday celebrations, leaving Caladh in Quiberon while we were away. It was lovely to see family and friends again. On our return, Jo’s mother and sister came back with us for a holiday. For a change we had hot and sunny weather while they were with us and enjoyed 10 days on the beach, combined with a little sailing and some sightseeing. This included a lovely day sail to the small island of Houat, which justifiably claims to have the most beautiful beach in Brittany, a long horseshoe shaped bay of white sand. In consequence on a sunny day in August it was packed with anchored yachts but still very much worth a visit.

After Jean and Libby returned home, our thoughts turned again to making further progress south and we left Quiberon on a hot, sunny and windless day for the Villaine River. The main port on the river is La Roche Bernard, which is a picturesque old town with a large marina, very popular with English yachtsmen who have decided to save some money and keep their boats in France. Above La Roche Bernard the river is beautiful and very peaceful, winding through agricultural land and reed beds for about 10 miles with very little habitation.  As the river is wide and there is little commercial traffic, it is possible to anchor almost anywhere in peace and seclusion and we enjoyed a lovely few days pottering on the river before setting sail again.

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Early morning mist on the Villaine River

The Villaine River is accessed via a large, very busy and consequently chaotic sea lock at Arzal and both our entry and exit through the lock were marked by fun and games. Even in August, the lock only seemed to operate once every 2 hours and is therefore very busy, filling up to maximum capacity and more as boats of all sizes try to squeeze in, sometimes without the benefit of warps or fenders or any ability to control the speed of their boats. A sense of humour and the ability to fend off from all directions was certainly needed! On our exit we were thwarted by a huge sand barge which occupied the entire lock with barely an inch to spare on any side, preventing any other boats from leaving.

Arzal.jpg
Entering the lock at Arzal

Once we managed to extricate ourselves from the lock, our next ports of call were Piriac and then Pornic, both lovely old seaside towns. However we did not manage to see them at their best as a series of Atlantic depressions tracked across France bringing very wet and windy weather again. Pornic did mark an important milestone for us as we had left Brittany and sailed south of the Loire River for the first time.

From Pornic we took advantage of a slight improvement in the weather for a short and lively beat across to the Ile de Normoutier in a north westerly force 5 breeze. We began to notice that although the weather didn’t yet have much of a southern feel, the architecture was beginning to, with white painted houses with red tiled roofs dominating the skyline. Normoutier has the advantage of being very flat and is therefore ideal cycling country for the not very fit, so we hired bicycles and spent an enjoyable day cycling around the island. The island has a varied landscape of sand dunes, woodland and flat salt marsh, from which sea salt is still cultivated commercially. We covered a total of 30 kilometres that day, not bad for the unfit we thought, even though sitting down afterwards was not possible for several days!

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Salt marshes at Ile de Normoutier

From Normoutier we sailed (well actually we motored as following days of too much wind it inevitably died completely) to the Ile d’Yeu, the only one of the several islands in the Vendee that is a true island, not linked to the mainland by a bridge. It has a definitely southern feel, reminding us very much of the Greek islands, and a relaxed atmosphere. We enjoyed sunshine again and a few days walking the lovely coast path, lying on the beach and swimming in the still very bracing Atlantic waters. The island has a large tuna fishing fleet, specialising in line caught tuna and there is an amazing fishmongers on the harbour front selling every imaginable fish and crustacean. It is necessary to queue for some time to buy fish and Simon attempted without success to do battle with two elderly French ladies quite blatantly queue jumping! A Frenchman told us “C’est une peste” but he didn’t bother to support our challenge! However we eventually managed to buy, cook and enjoy lovely fresh tuna steaks that evening.

Our stay on Ile d’Yeu was slightly marred on the last night by some very noisy neighbours who partied until 3am and then inexplicably left at 4.30am leaving everyone else to catch a few hours sleep. Thankfully, such events have been rare this summer and generally our stays have been peaceful.

From Ile d’Yeu we enjoyed a great sail in bright sunshine and a stiff breeze gusting up to 25 knots back towards the mainland to the snappily named St. Gilles Croix de Vie, where we spent a few days. This fishing port and seaside town combines two communities on either side of the river Vie and has a lively and enjoyable atmosphere. (Jo has refused to let me make a quip about the Eau de Vie). From there we had another lively downwind sail to Les Sables d’Olonne, home of the Vendee Globe single handed round the world yacht race that made Ellen MacArthur famous. It is now 4 months since we crossed the Channel and we have covered a leisurely 843 miles in that time. From Les Sables d’Olonne, we plan to spend the next month exploring the Ile de Re, La Rochelle and Ile d’Oleron areas before reaching Royan by early October, where we hope to leave Caladh over the winter.

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#5 2011-09-24 09:42:03

Simon and Joanna Bound
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Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Charente to Maritime - October 2007

Caladh_Oct_2007.jpg

The beginning of September was marked by warm, sunny and settled weather that was to last well into October, giving us a lovely Indian summer in which to enjoy our final cruising area for this year, the Charente-Maritime. We left Les Sables d’Olonne on 2 September in bright sunshine and sailed gently south in light winds to our next port of call at Port Bourgenay, just 8 miles away (yes, it was an epic passage!) Bourgenay is a purpose built marina complex with a few bars and shops on the harbour side, a mini Port Solent but without the M27 thundering by. It has the slight feel of being in a “toy town” that these man-made places tend to have but was surrounded by pleasant coastal and country scenery, where we enjoyed a couple of days walking before sailing on towards the Ile de Re.

The Ile de Re was one of the high points of our whole cruise. We had a lively early morning beat to windward in bright sunshine with a stiff north easterly force 4-5 breeze blowing to reach St Martin de Re by early afternoon. St Martin is a beautiful harbour with a real feel of the Mediterranean about it. The port sits right in the centre of the small town surrounded by restaurants, bars and shops housed in attractive whitewashed and red tiled buildings. Its picturesque qualities make it a magnet for yachts and tourists alike and the harbour was probably the busiest we had been in since leaving the Solent. On Saturday night a helpful and efficient young woman from the Capitainerie organised a nautical game of sardines, rafting the boats about 6 deep and so tightly packed it was almost possible to walk across them from one side of the harbour to the other.

It was fun to be there for a while but it was not the most peaceful of spots so after a few days we sailed a few miles north to Ars-en-Re. This presents an interesting pilotage challenge as Ars-en-Re sits at the head of a very large natural harbour which dries out completely at low water and has to be approached via 4 miles of winding channel near high tide, carefully following a series of transits and leading marks. It was worth the effort though as it’s a lovely quiet old town with a peaceful marina surrounded by salt marshes and we enjoyed a delightful few days there, exploring the northern end of the island by bicycle.

Our next port of call was St Denis on the Ile d’Oleron, a large marina which we felt lacked character and atmosphere. It was also not easy to access other places on the island from there so after a couple of nights we decided to move on and visit Rochefort. Rochefort is south of La Rochelle but well inland about 12 miles up the River Charente, a wide, fast flowing river. Yachts must travel up the drying river in the last couple of hours of the flood to arrive at the lock gate at high water, as the opening times are very limited. It is a pleasant trip passing through farm land and under the Victorian transporter bridge, where passengers are taken across the river in a large gondola suspended from the steel structure.

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We arrived in Rochefort on a pleasant sunny evening and were allocated a berth in the first basin which is surrounded by ancient buildings. Rochefort is a lovely town with a wealth of history and fine architecture, having been a major arsenal from the 16th century, protecting the French navy from the marauding English. It was also a centre of rope making and the beautifully restored Corderie Royale also dates from the 16th century. We spent a very enjoyable week exploring the town.

Rochefort had also been recommended to us by several people as a good place to leave a boat for the winter, providing good value, sheltered storage both in and out of the water. As we had discovered that our proposed destination of Royan had no space to accommodate us out of the water for the winter, we decided we would leave the boat in Rochefort.

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However, we still had a few weeks of our cruise left so after a week we departed Rochefort on a sunny and breezy afternoon. We paid a return visit to the Ile de Re and visited the tiny Ile d’Aix, a delightful and peaceful anchorage in fair weather. We also spent a lovely week at Boyardville on the Ile d’Oleron from where we were able to explore the island by bicycle. We also enjoyed a pleasant week in La Rochelle, another attractive old city with a wealth of interesting history to explore as well as plenty of bars, cafes, restaurants and shops clustered around the old harbour.

However, we were noticing that as October progressed France was getting sleepier and sleepier with the summer season long over, so in mid October we reluctantly returned to Rochefort and prepared the boat to be laid up the boat for the winter. On 20 October she was lifted by the harbour’s very efficient crane and with great sadness we packed up our possessions and left a bright and sunny south west France to return to a grey, dark and wet Hampshire.

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We have sailed a total of 1050 nautical miles since leaving the south coast just under six months ago, not a great distance in that time but we feel we have taken the opportunity to thoroughly explore the west coast of France, most of which we had not visited before. We enjoyed the summer very much so our current plan is to try to work over the winter to earn enough money to enable us to carry on cruising further south next year. Our original plan was to go through the Canal du Midi but we are now considering visiting northern Spain and Portugal next year as it has been recommended to us by so many people we met for its unspoilt beauty. One option we are considering is a circular cruise from Rochefort in 2007 and then going through the Canal du Midi to the Mediterranean in 2008. We are looking forward to spending some happy hours over the winter reading cruising guides and planning for next year!

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#6 2011-09-24 10:10:23

Simon and Joanna Bound
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Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Rochefort to Gijòn - May 2008

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We returned to France on 22 April 2008 to resume our slow cruise towards the Mediterranean, travelling by overnight ferry to St Malo and then driving down to Rochefort in our little white van, laden to the gunnels with all our possessions for the next six months afloat. On arrival we were delighted to find Caladh had been well looked after over the winter by the very helpful staff of the Port de Plaisance in Rochefort and after a week of scrubbing, anti-fouling and polishing in the sunshine (a pleasant change from our normal fitting out in January/February at home) the boat was craned back into the water on Tuesday 29 April, just in time to mark Jo’s half a century! We spent a further 10 days in Rochefort completing our preparations for the summer and finally set sail on Friday 9 May.

Our plan was to have a shake-down cruise in the local area to iron out any outstanding maintenance issues with the boat before crossing to northern Spain in early June. We therefore spent a pleasant few weeks visiting some of our favourite ports, including the Ile d’Oleron, Ile de Re and Ile d’Yeu. We were somewhat restricted in where we could visit for a time by a blockade of a number of mainland ports by the French fishermen, protesting about diesel prices. However by late May this was resolved by an offer of continued subsidy from the French government and we were able to visit Les Sables d’Olonne. There, we bought some boat bits we needed before sailing to La Rochelle to meet our friend Mike, who was flying out to provide extra crew for the Biscay crossing. While in La Rochelle, we were delighted and surprised to see our last boat Tarka (a Stag 28) and her current owner Brian who lives in the area. Having owned Tarka for 12 years and had many adventures in her, it was lovely to see an old friend again!

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Caladh in St. Martin de Re

After making our final preparations, we left La Rochelle on the afternoon of Friday 6 June intending to cross to Gijon in northern Spain, a passage of 247 miles, which we anticipated taking about 48 hours. However, it was not to be on this day. The weather forecast had been indicating high pressure would bring settled north easterly winds over the next few days, ideal for our crossing. The forecast that day was for north-west force 4-5 occasionally 6, decreasing 3 later but as we left La Rochelle we found it was blowing westerly force 6 with a rough sea. Not only was this a bit stronger than was ideal for a long passage but more significantly, from a direction which meant we could not lay our course of 235 degrees towards Gijon. Beating to windward with the wind hard on the nose, the best we could achieve was 250 degrees. When the early evening shipping forecast indicated no immediate improvement was likely, we decided that rather than spending a tiring, wet and uncomfortable night going in the wrong direction, it would be best to run back into La Rochelle and try again another day!

Overnight the wind eased and an early morning search of internet weather sites indicated that high pressure and settled weather was expected through until at least Tuesday and that the predicted north easterly winds should materialise later that day, so with a forecast of north-west 4-5, veering north-east in Biscay later, we left La Rochelle in bright sunshine at 10.30am and set sail for northern Spain. With a north westerly force 3-4 at first, increasing to force 4-5 by the afternoon and a smoother sea than the previous day, we romped along, achieving 6-7 knots over the ground for much of the time. Later in the day we put a reef in the main and then a few rolls in the jib for more comfort during the night watches. We were able to sail until 4.30am the following morning by which time the wind had died to almost nothing and we had to put the engine on.

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Jo and Mike in Bay of Biscay

During the afternoon a small group of dolphins swam with the boat for about 10 minutes and during Simon’s night watch a larger group spent over an hour swimming with us - a magical experience.

By morning the wind had come round to the north but remained very light through much of the day so we motored on in bright sunshine, which gave the tired crew a bit of a rest. We weren’t the only tired travellers, being visited by a rather bedraggled swallow in the morning, who stopped for an hour’s rest on the coach-roof and then (with surprising lack of nerves) sat on the spokes of the wheel as Simon kept watch, before flying off towards the French coast.

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Simon and swallow, Bay of Biscay

Later we were joined by a very tame racing pigeon who also took a couple of hours rest in the cockpit before being “encouraged” to fly on towards Spain as it became rather too messy! Still we enjoyed the company, as one of the things which struck us about the crossing was how empty Biscay is – we saw only a couple of yachts, a few fishing boats and a couple of larger ships during the whole crossing.

In late afternoon the wind freshened again but remained in the north, enabling us to set sail again on a broad reach for several hours until the wind died as the sun set. We suffered a very uncomfortable swell overnight but this gradually eased and by the early hours of the second night we were seeing the lights of the north Spanish coast. By the time Mike’s watch ended at 7am the mountainous coast could be seen clearly from about 20 miles off.

After two days of lovely sunshine at sea, our landfall turned out to be on a grey and overcast morning with the threat of rain and the mountains quickly disappeared in to a murky morning mist. We were all glad to finally reach Gijon, motoring into the marina and onto the visitors’ pontoon just over 48 hours after leaving La Rochelle. We had sailed for about half the passage and motored for the remainder, averaging 4.8 knots with a maximum speed of 6.9 knots. Overall, we enjoyed the experience but found it very tiring, mainly due to the last nights swell. We were very glad to have Mike along, as having an extra crew member with plenty of sailing experience enabled all of us to have more rest than would have been possible with just two of us. If we make longer crossings in the future, investment in a hydrovane or windvane self steering system will probably be essential.

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Caladh in Gijon

We spent a pleasant few days exploring Gijon. It is a large city with a population of about a quarter of a million and quite a lot of heavy industry, including iron ore and aluminium mining and chemical production. However, the port is adjacent to the very attractive old town and busy commercial centre and we enjoyed the atmosphere of the city. We also took a train trip to the lovely city of Oviedo, the capital of the region of Asturias, which has beautiful old buildings dating back to medieval times.

Mike flew back to England after a few days rest, and we left Gijon on Saturday and sailed 65 miles west along the coast to the small town of Ribadeo, which is perched on a hill above an attractive river. We enjoyed a great sail on a beautiful sunny day, broad reaching in north easterly force 4/5 winds for much of the way. The coast of the Costa Verde is very beautiful, with high cliffs topped by lush green fields with small towns and villages dotted on the hills, backed by mountains. However, contrary to the words of the popular song, the rain in Spain doesn’t fall mainly on the plains, it falls mainly on the mountains and we’ve certainly realised why the coast is so lush and green and the locals never go anywhere without an umbrella! Not much English is spoken so we’re rapidly trying to learn a few key phrases in Spanish but most people are helpful and friendly and we’re enjoying exploring new places. From here we intend to continue west towards A’ Coruna and the rias beyond, hoping to reach the Spanish/Portuguese border by late July. We’ll endeavour to keep you informed of our progress, when and if internet access is available.

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#7 2011-09-24 10:12:58

Simon and Joanna Bound
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Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Ribadeo to A' Coruna - June 2008

After a pleasant few days in Ribadeo we were keen to make more progress west to Viveiro, a small town about 30 miles down the coast. The Spanish coastal forecast was for SW winds of force 3-5 and while a south westerly wasn’t as useful as an easterly, the winds were not expected to be strong and for all but the last part of the passage we would be on a north westerly course. Initially we left in almost no wind and motored in bright sunshine for two hours along the coast, accompanied for some time by a large school of about a dozen dolphins.

Eventually the wind filled in but from the north west rather than the south west. This was not good as we had no useful making tack, so we motored on for a while. However, as the wind continued to strengthen and the sea built up, we were making very slow progress under motor. The wind was blowing about force 4-5 but was strengthening all the time so we put a reef in the main and began to sail. Over the next few hours the wind strengthened to force 5 gusting 6, then force 6 gusting 7 and a very rough and confused sea built up. It was a hard and wet passage, close on the wind almost all the way and it took us four hours to beat 12 miles around a large headland to approach Viveiro. In the last few miles the sea eased as we came into the lee of the land and we were able to bear away and romp into the ria at Viveiro. We tied up in the small marina with much relief and enjoyed a well deserved gin and tonic!

A couple of useful lessons were learnt. Firstly, the combination of a hot day and high headlands seems to produce a strong afternoon sea breeze, increasing the wind strength by up to two forces more than forecast. Secondly, beating to windward on this coast is not much fun, as the combination of fresh winds, big seas and high headlands make for challenging sailing.

We therefore spent a pleasant week in Viveiro, waiting for the high pressure to strengthen and the winds to come back round to the north east. Viveiro has an attractive old town, pretty river valley and a sandy beach. The marina facilities are rather basic, with communal showers reminiscent of school days and very unpredictable opening hours, but opportunities for provisioning were good. We eventually left Viveiro just before 7am on 25 June with the shipping forecast predicting NE force 4-5 occasionally 6 for a 60 mile passage along the coast to A’ Coruna.

Again we had no wind early on in the day but by lunch time it had freshened to the promised NE 4-5 from dead astern. There was a large 2-3 metre swell coming off the Atlantic but going with it made for a fast time. We remained about 5 miles off shore to avoid the various off lying rocks and shoals that litter the coast and it was only as we were about 10 miles off A’ Coruna that we bore away onto a broad reach and felt the strength of the wind that had by late afternoon built up to force 5-6. We had a lively sail into the ria at A’ Coruna, passing the harbour wall 10 hours after leaving Viveiro.

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Jo helming in the approach to A' Coruna

Approaching from the sea, it is clear that A' Coruna is not a beautiful city, with large blocks of flats and offices and the big commercial port clear on the skyline. However the main marina is right in the centre of the city with attractive glass balconied houses and attractive squares and gardens to explore. It has all the facilities of a large city and there are beaches, museums and pleasant walks around the headlands north of the city. Here the Torres de Hercules, a lighthouse dating from Roman times can be climbed for views of the whole area.

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Torres de Hercules

We look forward to spending a pleasant few days here before facing the challenges of Cape Finisterre.

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#8 2011-09-24 10:28:51

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

A' Coruna to Baiona - July 2008

We finally left A' Coruna on 8 July with a forecast of light westerly winds. We slipped from the marina at 6.40am into a grey dawn and motored out of the harbour into a 2-3 metre swell left over from the stronger winds of the previous few days. However, as the sun rose and we motored further offshore the sea eased and it became a beautiful sunny morning. The wind remained very light as we motored west to clear the Islas Sisargas and then bore away towards Cabo Vilano and our planned destination of the Ria de Camarinas, some 48 miles west of A Coruna.

By 3pm we were sailing towards the ria in a light breeze, mooring up in the small yacht club marina in Camarinas to find ourselves surrounded by large shoals of grey mullet that seem to breed there in large quantities. We nicknamed them the laughing fish of Camarinas as they lie on the surface of the water and stick out their mouths, as if laughing at us – maybe they were!

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A laughing fish in Camarinas

The ria is on the north western tip of Spain, just north of Cape Finisterre and has beautiful beaches and pleasant anchorages, so after a night in the marina we headed off with the aim of anchoring for a night or two and enjoying the peace of the ria. However, it was not quite the idyllic time we had hoped for as the wind freshened to force 5-6 overnight and then it rained all of the night and most of the next day! The anchorage was comfortable and safe so we just stayed below catching up with e-mailing, reading, navigation for the next part of our trip and practicing the guitar. The sun returned the next day and after spending a couple more days in Camarinas, we left on a bright and breezy morning to round Cape Finisterre and reach the first of the southern rias, the Ria Bajas.

With a forecast of N 2-4 increasing 5, we sailed away from the ria on a beam reach in a fairly lumpy sea, with the wind blowing NW 3-4 and then bore away towards Cape Finisterre. The wind came dead astern and gradually freshened to N 4-5 and we ran downwind with a preventer on the boom and half a knot of south going tide helping us along until well south of Cape Finisterre. Hardening in our sails to close the Ria de Muros, we had a good sail on a beam reach into the ria. Here the seas were flatter but the winds gustier as they funnelled down between the headlands and we beat into Muros with force 5 -6 winds on the nose. We anchored in the Ensenada de Muros about half a mile from the small town and enjoyed a well deserved gin and tonic to celebrate the milestone of being south of Cape Finisterre at last! Until Christopher Columbus discovered America this most westerly point in Spain was believed to be the end of the world (hence its name) and it remains a formidable landmark for sailors.

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Rounding Cape Finisterre

Although the winds remained fairly fresh for the next couple of days, the Muros anchorage was sheltered and secure and we enjoyed our stay there. The old town has an interesting network of narrow streets and old buildings and was celebrating a fiesta while we were there. The ria is sheltered and unspoilt and we enjoyed a hot sunny day at anchor off the beautiful sandy Playa de San Francisco – our first swim in the sea. After 3 nights in Muros we lifted our anchor on a sunny morning to head south into the next ria – Arosa.

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Caladh at anchor in Muros

The forecast was N 3-5 and we sailed downwind for the first couple of hours with the wind gusting up to force 5 but by late morning the wind had died completely and we motored in hot sunshine and flat calm (a real novelty on this cruise!) into the Ria de Arosa. This ria is much more built up than Muros, with a number of towns on both sides of the ria and a strong emphasis on fishing, as well as some commercial traffic.  However, the scenery is picturesque with many small islands and beaches, all backed by tree covered hills. We stayed at the yacht club marina at A Pobra do Caraminal and took the opportunity to reprovision, do our laundry and clean the boat over two hot, sunny and windy days, before heading south again into the Ria de Pontevedra, where we hoped to spend a few days on the beach.

After a sleepless night in the large, new and expensive marina at Sanxenso, a lively seaside town with a nightclub that boomed out until 7am, we left in search of quieter anchorages. We spent a hot and relaxing day anchored off a pleasant beach on the south coast of the ria before motoring in the evening to Combarro, a picturesque fishing village at the head of the ria, with, according to our pilot books, a sheltered anchorage. We were therefore surprised to find a large new marina still partially under construction. However, we opted to anchor off overnight and enjoy some peace and solitude. The next morning we went into the marina and treated ourselves to Sunday lunch ashore, with some of the delicious seafood the area is known for – gambas, calamaris and meaty razor clams we had never tried before but much enjoyed. The restored fishing village was very picturesque and quaint, with many horeos lining the shore. These raised stone grain stores built to protect the crops from damp and rats are typical of Galician architecture and seen in villages throughout the area.

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Simon and a Galician horeo

The following morning dawned sunny and breezy as usual so we headed south again to the Islas Cies, a small group of unspoilt islands with beautiful white sand beaches, lying off the Ria de Vigo. As a Danish sailor we met earlier in the trip told us, “It looks like the Caribbean until you put your foot in the water!” Yes, the sea was certainly bracing but anchored only 50 metres from the shore on a hot sunny day we could not resist swimming to the beach and back. In the late afternoon we lifted our anchor and sailed downwind in a NE 3-4 breeze into Baiona, an attractive seaside town about 15 miles north of the Spanish/Portuguese border. It was here that news of the discovery of America first reached Europe when the Pinta, one of Columbus’ fleet, returned from the new world. A replica of the ship sits in the harbour today.

We have enjoyed our time in the Spanish rias tremendously and would recommend them as a cruising area. The scenery is beautiful and the sailing more relaxing than the exposed north coast, with sheltered waters and flatter seas. There is plenty of choice of marinas and anchorages, interesting towns, beautiful beaches, a warm climate and not too many other boats, even in late July.

For us Baiona is a turning point as we now have the choice of continuing south into Portugal or returning to Rochefort for the winter as originally planned. After much deliberation we have decided to continue south towards Lisbon and then possibly leave the boat in the Algarve for the winter. Although this will complicate arrangements for laying up the boat, as our van is still in Rochefort, we feel it is an opportunity to see the Portuguese coast which we really should not miss. This, coupled with the challenges of sailing back to France with the winds continuing to blow strongly from the north, helped us reach our decision. As we write this on 25 July, we are at anchor in the Ensenada de San Simon (well we had to come here!) at the head of the Vigo ria, waiting for a short spell of wet weather to blow through, but hope to head off towards the delights of Portugal in the next few days. So far we have covered a total of 826 nautical miles since leaving Rochefort in early May.

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#9 2011-09-24 10:44:11

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Baiona to the Algarve - August 2008

We weighed anchor in Baiona just after 9am on 27 July to sail south towards the Portuguese border and into the port of Viana do Castelo, a passage of about 40 miles. Although it was sunny when we left Baiona, it soon clouded over and became grey and showery. The forecast was for a westerly wind force 3-5 but we found it funnelling straight up the coast. The predominant winds are from the north, so with no making tack going south we ended up motoring into a head wind and lumpy sea making for a slow and rather tedious passage. Our arrival in Portugal lacked the sunshine and blue skies we had anticipated for as we moored on the reception pontoon at Viana do Castelo the heavens opened and it rained heavily for much of the evening. Nonetheless it felt good to be in Portugal. Viana has a small marina lying between a modern lifting footbridge and an impressive steel road/rail bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame.

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Eiffel's bridge at Viano do Castelo

The staff were charming and helpful and made us feel very welcome. The next day dawned bright and sunny and we spent an enjoyable day exploring the attractive old town and taking a funicular railway up to a large church high above the town, whose design is based upon Sacre Couer in Paris. From here there were spectacular views of the coast and surrounding countryside.

The following day we enjoyed a gentle downwind sail 21 miles along the coast in warm sunshine and a gentle north westerly wind to our next port of call, Povoa de Vazim. Nonetheless, care is needed on any passage along this coast due to the large number of fishing pots laid, including in surprisingly deep water well offshore. Povoa has a sizeable but very quiet marina with lots of space and good facilities. It also has a noticeable English community with a number of yachts having been there many weeks or months and in some cases, years. This must be due to its very competitive rates which, at 12 euros a night in high season and cheaper if you stayed longer, were the best value all season. Povoa is a busy seaside resort with a long sandy beach, large casino and sizeable fishing fleet reminding us a bit of Deauville and Trouville in Normandy, although not so upmarket!

We planned to stay a few days because Povoa is at the end of the excellent metro into Oporto and conveniently situated for visiting the City. We loved Oporto. Its historic centre has been declared a World Heritage site and is a fascinating maze of narrow, winding, steep streets topped with red tiled buildings leading down to the river Douro, spanned by a number of impressive bridges. On the south bank lie all the Port wine houses. Fortified by a lunch of the local speciality of salted cod, we enjoyed a very pleasant tour of the cellars of one of the port distributors, Offely, rounded off by port tasting of course! We did of course have an Offely good time ……

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Oporto

While in Povoa we also experienced the Nortada for the first time. This is the Portuguese trade wind which blows north down the coast for much of the summer, particularly in periods of high pressure and often reaches force 6-7 in the late afternoon, making for fast passages and exciting arrivals in unfamiliar marinas and harbours! It was with this wind blowing that we had a fast, brief downwind passage to Leixoes, some 16 miles south of Povoa. Leixoes is a large commercial harbour serving Oporto with a small crowded marina but surprisingly it still has a good anchorage inside the high harbour wall and we spent the next 2 nights there. It was breezy, with winds gusting up to 30 knots, but with flat water and good shelter and holding, we were very comfortable. Our original plan was to spend one night there but we awoke the next morning to thick fog (another occasional hazard of the Portuguese coast in summer) and decided to go back to bed! It was foggy again the next morning but by 11am it had cleared and we weighed anchor and motored out of the harbour, manoeuvring carefully not to impede a large tanker trying to enter the busy harbour. However as we motored away from the coast the fog came down again and visibility reduced to less than 100 metres. We put on our radar to monitor the movement and position of other boats but nonetheless had close encounters with 2 fishing boats racing back into Leixoes with their catches at a speed of about 25 knots. Thankfully after an hour or so the sun came out and the fog cleared and it turned into a hot, windless day when only the motor got any use. After 34 miles we reached Aveiro.

The Portuguese coast here is long, straight and flat and navigation is straightforward. However, entering some harbours can be challenging when there is any offshore swell due to their narrow, shallow entrances. The pilot book warns that Aveiro can be dangerous to enter as the entrance is shallow and windswept with shifting sandbars and strong tides, which can whip up a vicious sea in any swell.  However this day the conditions were benign, despite a strong tide running into the entrance at 3-4 knots. We were soon anchored off Sao Jacinte, a small sheltered and quite busy anchorage within a somewhat industrial landscape of oil refineries and commercial shipping. It also has an active local population of fishermen who fish at the river mouth in small motor boats and we were awakened in the morning before first light by their noise and wash as they buzzed out of the anchorage at speed. We were keen to press on south and once the early morning mist lifted we pulled up our anchor and motored down the river. It was another day of light winds and we motored until off Cabo Mondego when the wind filled in enough to sail the last 10 miles to Figueira da Foz. Figueira is a nice town and has a pleasant but surprisingly expensive marina (28 euros a night compared to an average of 18 – 20 euros or sometimes less on this coast.) However we needed to do shopping and laundry so splashed out on a 2 night stay.

The following day was forecast to have a good breeze of north force 4-5, occasionally 6 in the afternoon so we rose early and motored out of Figueira at 7.30am in company with a number of other yachts. The wind was already blowing north-west force 4-5 so we decided to run downwind on the genoa alone. It turned out to be a lively sail in a fresh breeze which whipped up a 2-3 metre swell and a large following sea. Nonetheless it was good to sail after doing a lot of motoring on our last couple of passages. The sun was out and after an enjoyable 7 hours we reached Nazare, a seaside resort and fishing harbour 31 miles further south. Nazare is surrounded by high cliffs and as we took down our sail and surfed through the harbour entrance the wind gusted up to 25 knots, making berthing a challenge. Nazare marina is quite small and busy but we found a spot alongside a French catamaran on the hammerhead of one of the pontoons.

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Fishing boat arriving at Nazare

Although it was not an ideal berth, later arrivals were being turned away so we were pleased to be in. The marina is not picturesque, being located alongside the fish dock and warehouses, where boats come in at all hours to land their catch which is immediately auctioned – interesting to watch but very noisy late into the night.

The marina is also very bureaucratic in its administration. The pilot books warn about Portuguese bureaucracy but other than having to show boat papers and passports at every port of call, we had not found it an issue so far. However at Nazare we were required to register separately with the marina office, passport control and the customs and excise. Marina fees had to be paid at a fourth location. We didn’t encounter this anywhere else and never really fathomed out why it was not more efficiently managed with sharing of information as elsewhere.

However, despite the frustrations, we spent a pleasant day exploring the hilltop village of Sitio, where we had an excellent lunch in a fish restaurant and enjoyed beautiful views of the coast and hills beyond.

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Coastline near Nazare

The following day we sailed on to Peniche, another fishing port where we stopped overnight before heading south again towards the Tejo river and Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. It was a long and not very pleasant passage of about 50 miles in cloud, rain, several thick fog banks and no wind, only enlivened by visits from 2 groups of dolphins, who continue to be a common sight down this coast. The other highlight was rounding Cabo Roca, which lies just north of the Tejo River and is the most westerly point in mainland Europe. We decided to spend a few days in Oeiras, a seaside resort near Estoril about 5 miles outside Lisbon, where the marina had been recommended to us. It was very pleasant with excellent facilities and helpful, friendly staff and we spent an enjoyable few days there. This included taking a bus to Sintra, a hill top village where the Portuguese royal family used to spend their summers escaping from the heat of Lisbon and where there are several interesting historic palaces to visit.

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Ponte 25 de Abril in Lisbon

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Lisbon

We had been warned that the main visitors’ marina, Doca de Alcantra in Lisbon, was very noisy with bars and cruise liners berthing nearby and that the other local marinas rarely had spare berths. However as this was August it transpired that many local boats were away on holiday and spaces were more readily available. We were therefore able to secure a berth in the Doca de Belem, located in the Belem district of the City. This is a very pleasant area with a number of museums, historical monuments, a beautiful monastery and a large park nearby. Lisbon has excellent public transport and it is easy to get into the City Centre by tram, bus or train and we enjoyed several interesting if tiring days exploring the capital. It is a busy, lively and attractive city but after a while we wanted more peace and quiet so after 4 nights we sailed back down river to Cascais, a seaside resort at the mouth of the Tejo. A fresh breeze was blowing up the river so we had a lively beat into the harbour where we were able to anchor off the town beach. Cascais marina seems to be the haunt of the local wealthy boat owners – it charges 39 euros a night for a 10 metre yacht and is full of enormous motor boats. However the anchorage was free and comfortable even in winds gusting up to 30 knots and we enjoyed a relaxing couple of nights recovering from sightseeing overload!

Finally we felt it was time to leave the Tejo River and head further south, so the following morning we were up at 6.30am for a 50 mile passage down to Sines. As we headed across the mouth of the Tejo the wind was already gusting up to 20 knots with a forecast of north force 4-5 winds, occasionally 6 in the afternoon, so we set off under reefed sails. However the wind must have just been funnelling down the river and within 20 minutes the wind died away to almost nothing and we were motoring again! However by late morning it had freshened to the promised force 4-5 and came round dead astern so we put a preventer on the boom and ran downwind on the mainsail. With a 2-3 metre swell, a lively following sea soon built up and we surfed down the waves towards Sines. Sines is another commercial harbour with an oil refinery and container terminal so as we closed the harbour in an ever freshening breeze there were several large ships manoeuvring. However we managed to enter the outer harbour safely ahead of them and hardening up the sails, we roared into the inner harbour with the wind gusting up to 25 knots. This made for a challenging entrance into a very tight berth but with help from the friendly marina staff we were safely tied up by 17.30 in time for a reviving cup of tea!

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Swell off Cabo de Sao Vincente

Although Sines is a commercial harbour none of this is visible from the inner harbour which has an agreeable marina, surprisingly good beach and old town above, dominated by a large Moorish castle. The town is well off the tourist trail and we enjoyed a relaxing few days there before our last major passage of this cruise, rounding Cabo de Sao Vicente to reach the Algarve. Our planned passage to the anchorage at Sagres was just less than 60 miles (rather than 76 if we continued all the way to Lagos) so we left Sines at 6am before it was light and motored out of the harbour, keeping a careful eye out for large ships, the fishing fleet and most hazardous of all, the ever present fishing pots. The forecast was for north force 4-5 winds but for much of the day the wind didn’t exceed force 2-3 and we motor sailed all the way to the Cape. It was only when we hardened up onto a beam reach to round the huge cliffs of Cabo de Sao Vicente that the wind freshened quickly to be gusting force 5-6 by the time we reached Sagres. The bay below the cliffs where the Portuguese explorer, Henry the Navigator established his school of navigation in the 15th century is a popular anchorage for boats heading both north and south and there were another 8 or 9 boats anchored there. However sheltered it was not! The stiff breeze was gusting off the cliffs and blew hard until the early hours of the morning. We put out 50 metres of chain and were secure on our anchor but during the night a noticeable swell came into the bay and we had the most uncomfortable night we have had all season! We were up early in the morning and keen to leave for Lagos as soon as possible, a short and uneventful passage of 17 miles. Lagos has a good and popular, if expensive marina at 38 euros a night – comparable with some UK south coast ventures. We visited the town many years ago and liked it but this time found its busyness and abundance of mainly English tourists a bit of a culture shock after the quieter less touristy harbours of the west coast of Portugal. After three nights we were pleased to move on just 5 miles to Alvor where we have been anchored in the harbour for the last few days. It’s lovely here. The harbour is very tidal and at low water many sand spits appear and local fishermen and women come out to dig for razor-clams, clams and winkles as well as long lugworms for bait. Today we tried our hand at digging for clams and we successfully did so, enough for a tasty lunch for 4 people. A similar amount in a local supermarket cost upwards of 7 euros.

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Caladh at anchor in Alvor

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Fishing for razor clams at Alvor

We plan to spend the next 2 – 3 weeks exploring the Algarve which as well as having plenty of large expensive marina’s which we hope to avoid, also has some interesting and unspoilt anchorages. We hope to get as far as the Guardiana River at the Portuguese/Spanish border before laying up for the winter back in Faro and returning to the UK in mid-October.

Although not without its challenges we’ve very much enjoyed our cruise of the Spanish and Portuguese coast. We have also met lots of interesting people and enjoyed spending time in their company – fellow sailors from as close to home at Portsmouth and as far away as the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany. We particularly enjoyed meeting the crew of Arco Iris III who were all the way from Tokyo and gently cruising the Portuguese coast. The skipper Kakimi was en-route for somewhere but it was forever changing! His friends from Japan came out to crew for sometimes as little as a week at a time. In Lagos we enjoyed a very interesting evening of cultural exchange including eating various sushi dishes prepared by his wife on board their Dufour 39. We have also seen two other Victorias on our travels. In Pavoa we met fellow Victoria 34 owners in Babilonia who were heading north from the Med and in Lagos saw a beautiful Victoria 38 Tamar Swallow, although its crew was not on board when we were there.

Next year we look forward to continuing our travels east into the Mediterranean towards Greece and Turkey.

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#10 2011-09-24 10:56:48

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Faro to Gibraltar - May 2009

We flew back to Faro on 15 April to begin our summer cruise which we hope will take us into the Mediterranean and onto the Ionian Islands of Greece by the autumn. Bruce’s boatyard in Faro had proved a good place to leave the boat ashore over the winter. The yard is clean, spacious with strong cradles provided and we found Caladh in good shape. Simon and his brother Jon had come out for a week in late March to do the hard work of scraping back several layers of old antifouling and priming the hull. We quickly knuckled down to antifouling, polishing and cleaning the boat, as well as fitting two additional solar panels, in preparation for the new season.

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Caladh being launched in Faro

By 27 April we were ready to launch the boat on a bright and very blustery afternoon. The boatyard has no marina or pontoons and is approached via a winding, drying, muddy creek. We were lowered into the water at the top of the tide about 4pm, together with another yacht and then had to follow the yard’s owner, Bruce in his tender, as he guided us back to the main deep water channel and waved goodbye. We both felt the engine didn’t sound quite right but with a force 5 breeze blowing we pressed on down the channel towards our proposed anchorage about 5 miles away off the Isla Culatra. However, we had not got much further when the alarm warning us the engine was overheating went off. We put out some of the genoa and with the wind behind us, began to sail down the channel. The alarm quickly stopped and we wondered if the problem had cleared but soon it was sounding again. Investigation showed there was no water coming in to cool the engine, indicating something, probably seaweed, was blocking the water intake. Simon’s efforts to clear this as we sailed towards our anchorage failed, forcing us to anchor under sail. This was something we’d only done on sailing courses but luckily the anchor dug in well and we set about clearing the blockage. An hour and a half’s effort with an old metal coat hanger and the dinghy pump to push the weed back to where it had come from, eventually worked and there was a satisfying “whoosh” as water poured up through the intake pipe again. The engine started and seemed to run well after that, so we can only think that we picked the weed up as we motored hard away from the dock in the stiff breeze.

The following morning we weighed anchor and had a pleasant sail 30 miles east along the coast towards the Portuguese – Spanish border. We enjoyed a number of sightings of quite big groups of dolphins en route west towards the Atlantic, sadly the first and last time we have seen dolphins so far on this trip. Late afternoon we reached Ayamonte, a small town on the Spanish side of the Guardiana River with a pleasant marina. We spent a week here completing the work we needed to do on the boat before beginning our summer cruise in earnest, heading east again along the Spanish coast on 5 May.

We coast hopped towards Gibraltar with stops in the seaside resorts of Mazagon and Chipiona. The forecast was for easterly winds, which would probably mean a beat to windward but with winds up to force 4 forecast and a passage of less than 20 miles to Cadiz, we were unconcerned. The early part of the trip was fine but as a squall came through, winds rapidly increased up to over 30 knots on the nose and stayed there. A hard, wet trip was in prospect so we decided to turn back and return to Chipiona and try again another day. However, as we were berthing up in the marina we were caught by a gust of wind and managed to hit the corner of the metal pontoon hard with Caladh’s bow, causing an ugly dent through to the gel coat. This was particularly upsetting just when we had got the boat looking her best for the start of the season but after careful filling and painting over the following days, she looks as good as before again.

We eventually reached Cadiz a couple of days later after an uneventful passage this time, planning to spend a week here sightseeing, including a trip to Seville by train.

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A rooftop view of the old city of Cadiz

Byron said Cadiz was the most beautiful city in the world but he was probably here before they built the container port!

The marina is situated in these rather industrial surroundings next to the busy commercial port, some 20 minutes walk from the old city, but it is worth the walk. It is an interesting and attractive city with winding narrow streets, lovely old buildings, attractive squares and pleasant parks. It has a huge, colourful food market and is a good place to explore for a few days.

Seville, the capital of Andalusia, is a two hour train ride away and is a beautiful city. It has a large Moorish palace, the Real Alcazar, which has beautiful tiled rooms and large gardens in which the Jacaranda trees were in full bloom. The cathedral is an enormous and impressive building, where Christopher Columbus is buried, and the climb to the top of its bell tower, La Giralda, gives extensive views across the city. There was too much to see in just one day, but it was well worth the effort.

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The gardens of the Real Alcazar in Seville

We left Cadiz on 18 May heading for Barbate, a fishing port about 35 miles down the coast just east of Cabo Trafalgar, the headland off which Nelson’s famous battle was fought in 1805. We had our first glimpses of North Africa and an enjoyable and towards the end, lively downwind sail, as the wind freshened up to force 5 as we closed the harbour. Barbate is a centre of tuna fishing in the traditional way, with a large tunny net anchored to the sea bed just offshore for the summer months. This is claimed to be a sustainable form of fishing as the net size aims to ensure only larger mature tuna are caught and smaller fish and other species, notably dolphin, escape.

Unhappily, while we were in Barbate we witnessed a local tragedy. Apparently 4 men were out fishing early in the morning in a small dory when they were capsized by a wave and ended up in the water. Very sadly one of the men drowned and his body was brought back to the marina by another fishing boat. The heart wrenching cries of his family were harrowing to witness and a stark reminder that the sea can be a dangerous place.

   

After a couple of nights in Barbate and with a favourable forecast of westerly winds force 4-5, we set off early in the morning with the aim of reaching Gibraltar, about 40 miles down the coast at the entrance to the Mediterranean. This coast is notoriously windy, particularly off the headland of Tarifa, where winds are said to reach at least 30 knots on 300 days of the year. This day it proved benign as we rounded it with force 3-4 winds from astern and a calm sea. However, as we entered the Gibraltar Straits the wind increased quickly to about 25 knots and we reefed both the main and genoa. With the wind from astern, 2-3 knots of favourable tide and a relatively flat sea, we flew along with speeds over the ground in excess of 9 knots and were soon entering Gibraltar Bay, under the shadow of the huge Rock of Gibraltar. As we sailed into the bay shelter increased and by the time we approached Queensway Quay Marina, it was flat calm. We were pleased about this for our first attempt at Mediterranean style fore and aft mooring but with the help of the marina staff, it was achieved smoothly and we even managed to reverse into our berth, not something we normally attempt.

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The Rock of Gibralter

We have now been in Gibraltar for about 6 days and are hoping to move on soon into the Mediterranean, although we are currently waiting to see if we can get a repair to our autohelm done here, as well as for easterly gale force winds known as the Levanter to blow through. In the meantime it has been an opportunity to visit the top of the Rock, from where the views are stunning; see the Barbary Apes, including some very cute, tiny young ones; visit Europa Point, where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet and catch up on some shopping. We were kindly taken over the border into Spain for a day by John and Pam who we met here and saw where the rich and famous play golf and polo in the upmarket resort of Sotogrande.  Gibraltar itself is full of huge and expensive yachts and motor boats, as one would expect in an offshore tax haven but also caters for English tourists seeking traditional pubs and fish and chips – it’s a strange mix. However, despite being devotedly British, Gibraltar has a diverse cultural mix with people coming to live here over the last few centuries from Genoa, Spain, Malta as well as Britain. It also has significant Jewish and Asian communities. Because of its geographical constraints it’s a busy place with lots of traffic and road works and some areas seem surprisingly scruffy.

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Barbary Apes

It’s been interesting to visit for a few days but not somewhere we’d choose to stay too long. From here if time permits, we may visit Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, before heading up the Spanish coast towards the Balearic Islands.

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#11 2011-09-24 11:05:09

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Gibraltar to Ibiza - June 2009

We spent ten days in Gibraltar while we arranged repair to our autohelm, which was eventually successfully completed by Jeremy the helpful engineer from Shepards - although at some cost as we had to purchase a new course computer. We were therefore pleased to slip our mooring at Queensway Quay Marina at last early on 31 May and, passing a wrecked tanker that had run aground there late last year, motor around Europa Point on a calm sunny morning to enter the Mediterranean for the first time, accompanied by a small group of dolphins. It remained a hot and still day and we continued to motor the 30 miles to our first port of call, Bajadilla on the outskirts of Marbella.

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Rounding Europa Point

The Costa del Sol is very overdeveloped with many huge resorts dominated by high rise apartment blocks and hotels. You can still see what originally attracted people to holiday on this coast which is backed by spectacular mountains which sweep down to the sea, but it has been developed in such an intensive and unsympathetic way, we felt there was little to linger over so for the next few days we hopped up the coast to reach Almerimar on 3 June.

Almerimar had been recommended to us as a pleasant port offering good value berths and we planned to spend some time there to visit Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains which lie inland. The port itself is huge but is divided into 3 separate yacht basins each surrounded by bars, restaurants and low rise apartments and is an agreeable place to spend a few days.

This area is also one of the main centres for growing salad vegetables for the European winter market and the low plains between the sea and the mountains are covered with hundreds of acres of plastic greenhouses, so extensive they are apparently visible from space and locally called the City of Plastic. Hideous but vital to the local economy which is evidently suffering the effects of the credit crunch, as everywhere we visited had huge blocks of brand new apartments standing empty and unsold. We had been led to expect this coast would be very busy with it being difficult to find a berth in any marina but everywhere we stopped had plenty of space and bars, cafes and restaurants all seemed quiet for the time of year.

Our sightseeing jaunts were well worth it. We hired a car and spent 2 days touring the Sierra Nevada. The mountain scenery was incredible – spectacular, huge views over snow capped peaks and excellent roads which the little Fiat Panda we hired tackled with ease.

One day we toured the Alpujarras, a region famous for its dried cured ham. In the highest village of Trevelez, just below the snow line there are many shops and restaurants in which the ceilings are completely covered with hams hanging from the rafters, curing in the clean mountain air.

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Hams drying at Trevelez

The following day we drove east to Tabernas into the area Serge Leone made famous when he filmed The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and numerous other spaghetti westerns here in an region that bears a striking resemblance to the Arizona desert. The film sets are now tourist attractions but are still used occasionally for making pop videos.

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Spaghetti western film set in the Sierra Nevada

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Sierra Nevada mountains

We also went on a tour of the Alhambra in Granada. On this site there are 3 Moorish palaces dating from 13th century Nasrid Empire. The Alcazaba was the defensive stronghold, the Royal Palace their main residence and the Generalife a summer palace with beautiful gardens and courtyards. The Royal Palace is famous for its intricately carved walls and ceilings and its cool courtyards and was very beautiful. Jo had last visited it in 1973 on the Hampshire School’s Cruise but in the one area she particularly remembered, the Patio de los Leones, its central fountain of 12 marble lions had been removed for restoration!

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A courtyard at the Alhambra

After our break from sailing we were keen to move on up the Costa Blanca towards the Balearics, but were delayed a few more days as our RM69 sea toilet had sprung a severe sea-water leak, eventually traced to a cracked base. Luckily Almerimar has an excellent chandlery which managed to source and obtain the spare part within a couple of days but it was 18 June before we eventually set sail again. It is one of the challenges of maintaining an older boat.

The coastline of the Costa Blanca is less developed with high cliffs retaining more of their natural beauty. From Almerimar it is a long 70 mile hop around Cabo de Gata and up the coast to Garrucha, our proposed destination and we left at 7am with a forecast of north easterly winds force 3-4 occasionally 5. North easterly winds were not ideal as they would result in a windward passage but the winds had been blowing consistently from the north east for some time and were forecast to continue to do so for some days, so we decided to go for it. For the first few hours the winds were light and we motor sailed along the coast but by noon as we approached Cabo de Gata the winds freshened to force 5 and came hard on the nose. With building seas our progress was slow, bashing into head winds and waves and lacking a making tack. It was well after 2pm before we rounded Cabo de Gata and with conditions and our ground speed not improving, it was clear we could not reach Garrucha by nightfall. We decided to go into the small port of St Jose, previously rejected because it was said to be very expensive.  However, as we tried to close the coast, the wind freshened considerably screaming off the high cliffs and gusting up to 28 knots. We took the view that it was unsafe to try to enter the small harbour in these conditions, so turned round and headed out to sea again. We continued our slow progress up the coast and as late afternoon arrived we reviewed our options. We could enter Garrucha in the dark – not an attractive prospect in an unfamiliar harbour. We could try and find a sheltered anchorage but there were few options with an easterly wind blowing directly onto the exposed coastline. We could continue sailing through the night and make landfall the following morning at Cartagena, a large protected harbour another 50 miles up the coast from Garrucha. When the evening weather forecast promised light winds overnight we decided this was our best option. Indeed as night fell the wind quickly eased and although there was insufficient to sail, our ground speed improved as we motored up the coast. It proved to be a quiet night. We kept a watch each and by 9.30am were moored up in the yacht club in Cartagena.

We liked Cartagena a lot. The yacht club had a pleasant bar and a free swimming pool. The town sits besides one of the few large natural harbours on this coast and has been fought over for centuries, first by the Carthaginians after whom it is named and then by subsequent dynasties that wished to rule this part of Spain. In the Spanish Civil War, the town held out against Franco and the Republicans for over 2 years and the bullet holes of the subsequent fighting can still be seen in the walls of the town hall. Today it is a busy naval and commercial port but has an attractive old town with a nice atmosphere and pleasant streets, shops, cafes and tapas bars to try. It feels like a real place where real people live and work, compared to the somewhat artificial holiday resorts along the coast and we very much enjoyed our few days there.

Our next port of call was Mar Menor, a sizeable inland sea about 12 by 6 miles long, entered via a canal dug through the long sand spit that protects it from the sea. The coastal fringe is very built up but inside there are two small islands and we spent a relaxing couple of days at anchor here (apart from running aground briefly in the shallow waters – oops!) From here we headed further up the coast to Torrevieja another busy holiday resort, so after catching up on shopping and laundry we sailed to Altea, just under 50 miles north. This was another of our favourite places. It had a lovely yacht club with a large swimming pool and on the hill above, a charming old town with narrow winding streets topped by a large ornate church.

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The coastline at Altea

After a few days there we reluctantly left and headed up the coast to Denia our final port of call on the Costa Blanca enjoying a cracking downwind sail in winds up to force 5. It has been very hot for some weeks with temperatures well above 30 degrees Celsius but we found Denia stifling having one day seen 37 degrees on our thermometer in the cabin. Denia is backed by a large hill which dominates the town and we felt this trapped the heat and every evening a very hot wind blew down off it. We stayed a few days to provision the boat and prepare for crossing to the Balearics. While we were there a fiesta began which included an apparently Pamplona style bull run through the streets, so with friends Gower and Yvonne with whom we had been cruising in company along much of this coast, we went to watch the spectacle. The young men (and some young women) of the town gathered in the main street and at 7pm a gun was fired and the bulls were released. It proved something of a disappointment and was over in moments. 3 or 4 young steers charged down the street dispersing the crowds followed by two rather elderly bulls who sauntered by behind them, easily avoided by the participants! 

On the morning of 5 July we rose early and sailed the 55 miles to Ibiza. It was a very pleasant crossing, a mixture of sailing and motor sailing on a fine reach as the wind filled in and then later eased. By evening we were anchored in the large bay at St Antonio a lively resort popular with young British night clubbers where we stopped for just one night before heading out to explore the more picturesque anchorages of the Balearics over the next few weeks.

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#12 2011-09-24 11:15:43

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Ibiza to Sardinia - July/August 2009

After a night at anchor in St. Antonio on Ibiza, on 6 July we headed for the tiny island of Espalmador, which lies between Ibiza and its neighbour Formentera. Espalmador has a beautiful horseshoe shaped bay lined by a white sand beach with crystal clear turquoise water. Consequently it is an extremely popular anchorage. Here and in a number of the busier anchorages, the Balearics Counsel has laid mooring buoys to protect the posidenia grass which covers the sea bed.  These moorings are currently free and can be booked on-line for up to 2 nights, which we had done. When we arrived at Espalmador about lunchtime the anchorage was packed with all available space to moor or anchor seemingly taken. When we eventually found our mooring buoy, it was occupied by a large Spanish motor boat. When we advised its owner that we had reserved this buoy, his answer was “No comprende” and to retreat into his cabin and ignore us! However eventually we secured an alternative buoy where we spent a very pleasant couple of days swimming, relaxing and exploring ashore. We resisted the temptations of the very smelly sulphur mud baths on the island, although apparently the mud was very good for the complexion and people wearing nothing but mud were frequently spotted wandering along the beach!

From Espalmador we headed a few miles south to Formentera, making a short stop in the small port of Sabina for provisions and then heading for an anchorage at Cala Sahona.

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The anchorage at Cala Sahona

This is another beautiful bay with some of the clearest water we have seen – the colour of a swimming pool. It is also very popular and by day was packed with yachts and motor boats, including one so big it had a helicopter on the stern. Many of the largest motor boats were British flagged – no sign of the credit crunch here! However a lot of the boats headed back to the marinas on Ibiza in the evening making it more peaceful overnight and we spent a pleasant couple of days here.

On 11 July we weighed anchor and had an enjoyable sail from Formentera up the east coast of Ibiza to St. Eulalia where we planned to spend a couple of nights in the marina to get water and provisions and visit Ibiza Town on the bus. On arrival we were allocated a berth in the surprisingly quiet marina but the office was closed until 5pm so we were unable to book in. We filled up with water and after 5pm walked round to the office, to be told the berthing fees would be a staggering 102€ a night. We declined their kind offer, grabbed a few provisions from the nearby Spar supermarket and left! We were advised the marinas in Ibiza Town were likely to be as expensive so we motored north to find an anchorage for the night. By now the wind was blowing NE4 and kicking up a bit of a swell on this east facing coast but we found the most sheltered anchorage we could and settled down for the night. The wind eased as night fell but the swell persisted, making for an uncomfortable and sleepless night, so just before 8am the following morning we weighed anchor and headed off for Mallorca, a passage of about 45 miles. It was a beautiful sunny day and with the wind freshening to E4-5 by late morning we had a great sail across on a fine reach, averaging over 6 knots and arriving off the south west coast of Mallorca about 3.30pm.  After a brief navigational failure when we realised our waypoint was taking us into the wrong bay (!), we reached Puerto Andraitx, a pretty fishing port in a large sheltered bay. The anchorage in the approach to the port was crowded and we struggled to find a space. It was also quite deep and rather weedy and the holding was not good. It took us an exhausting 5 attempts until Simon eventually got the anchor to hold and we could have a well deserved swim and a beer or two!

The following day we pumped up the dinghy and went ashore to explore the small town which was attractive and quite upmarket. It also offered good facilities including a large supermarket, good hardware store and a laundry. From here we planned to move on to the main town of Palma but telephone calls to several marinas indicated that prices there were between 80 and 100€ a night. We feared this might be the case everywhere but fortunately we then bumped into Terry and Emma aboard Libertine, an Oyster 39, who we had previously met in Almerimar.  They advised us that some of the ports throughout the Balearic Islands had port authority run quays and mooring buoys which were much more affordable – 29€ for us including electricity and water. We successfully secured a place on the quay at Puerto Andraitx, enabling us to have the peace of mind to leave the boat all day and head into Palma on the bus.

Palma turned out to be a lovely town with beautiful old buildings, a long waterfront, wide tree lined streets with nice shops and attractive parks and squares. We visited the Moorish Almudaina Palace (by complete luck free for EU citizens to visit on a Wednesday) and the cathedral, which dates from the 13th century but includes 20th and 21st century art including a large piece above the altar by Gaudi. After excellent paella for lunch we explored the shops and old town and had a good and inexpensive haircut, before heading back on the bus.

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Palma Cathedral

We stayed in Puerto Andraitx for a couple more days to see the celebrations for the Fiesta de la Virgin del Carmen, the patron saint of sailors and fishermen, when a statue of the Virgin is paraded from the church to the harbour and then taken aboard one of the fishing boats for a waterborne procession accompanied by a large flotilla of boats. In the evening there were spectacular fireworks through the main street and we had a ringside seat from our boat.

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Waterborne procession of the Virgin del Carmen

We left Puerto Andraitx on 19 July and motored west and then north around Dragonera Island and up the north coast to the port of Soller. It proved to be a windless day and we motored all the way but the calm conditions enabled us to keep close inshore and enjoy the spectacular limestone cliffs of the beautiful and fairly unspoilt north coast. Soller sits in another sheltered natural harbour and we anchored off the beach. Soller consists of the port with its busy harbour and seaside resort and the town which is about 5 miles inland. A Victorian tram connects the two and the following day we took the tram inland to the town of Soller. From here it is possible to take a Victorian narrow gauge railway to Palma, a very popular tourist run. One of Soller’s citizens was a friend of the artists Picasso and Miro and the station houses free exhibitions of both their works. The town itself was pleasant and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering around before heading back to the port.

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Caladh at anchor at Soller

The next day we headed further along the north coast with a forecast of S or SE winds force 2-4. There was no wind for the first 4 hours and we motored towards Capo de Formentor, a high headland on the north east corner of Mallorca marked by a large lighthouse. When we were about 6 miles from the headland we could see a line of white water ahead and within half an hour the wind had filled in to a gusty F5-6, we had reefed down the main and genoa and were beating towards the headland in a lively sea. Once we had settled ourselves it was an enjoyable and lively sail, if a little wet, but the wind change seemed to have caught some of the charter boats by surprise as they struggled with too much sail and seemed on occasion to be alarmingly close to the cliffs of a lee shore. By 4pm we were romping into the Bahia de Pollensa, where we were lucky to secure a vacant mooring under the Punta de la Avanzada, an attractive headland topped by a large privately owned castle about 2 miles across the bay from Pollensa town. We spent a relaxing 2 nights here, swimming and chilling out before heading into Pollensa for fuel, water and provisions. We managed to secure a berth on the port authority quay and decided to stay a few nights and hire a car to explore some of the interior of the island.

Generally we had found the climate of the Balearics more comfortable than the Spanish mainland – it was just a little cooler at about 30 degrees, a little less humid and with more breeze, especially at night, although this may also be because we spent more time at anchor. However, we hit Pollensa in a mini heat wave and for 2 days it was a stifling and humid 40 degrees. Luckily we were able to use the swimming pool at the yacht club to cool off.

On the Saturday morning we collected our hire car and headed for the hills. We were accompanied by Pedro from a neighbouring yacht, who had asked for a lift to Lluc some 20 kilometres up in the mountains from where he intended to walk back to Pollensa. He spoke little English but we managed to communicate in French and he gave us useful advice about places to visit.

Lluc has an interesting monastery and botanic gardens and we spent an hour exploring before heading further up into the mountains which fringe northern Mallorca. The scenery was spectacular and we spent an enjoyable few hours motoring along winding mountain roads with stunning views. It also seemed to be where the wealthy come on holiday and the small towns and villages along the route had some beautiful hillside properties. We returned via the main road to the old town of Pollensa, a few miles inland from the port, where we climbed the Carre de Calvari, a steep set of steps leading to a small chapel from where there are good views across the Bahia de Pollensa. Our final stop was to drive to the lighthouse at Capo de Formentor, a lovely coast road ending at the top of the high cliffs. It was a very enjoyable day out and good to see a bit more of inland Mallorca.

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The north coast of Mallorca

The following morning we left Pollensa about 8am bound for our final port of call in Mallorca, Porto Colom about 40 miles distant on the south east coast. It proved an uneventful passage with only enough wind to sail for the last couple of hours. We arrived about 4.30pm and were lucky to secure a vacant port authority mooring in the busy harbour – a bargain at 5€ a night including use of the on shore showers. The following morning we decided to take the dinghy ashore. We had been towing it around for the 3 weeks we had been in the Balearics and when we lifted it in deck to put in a bit more air found it was growing a healthy coat of barnacles on its bottom, requiring a good scrub off. We should obviously pull it out more often! We spent 3 nights in Porto Colom. There was certainly evidence of money here – large properties bordering the picturesque harbour and expensive restaurants on the quay but parts of the town also had a sleepy, dusty, run down feel. It was not too touristy though and we had a relaxing couple of days before setting off towards our final Balearic island, Menorca.

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Porto Colom in the evening light

On 29 July we set sail at 7am and motored the entire 48 miles to Mahon on the east coast of Menorca in a very light easterly breeze. It was hot and dull and annoyingly the sea breeze only set in as we were taking our sails down in Mahon harbour! We had been warned that most of the berths in Mahon, the capital and main port of Menorca, were unaffordable with the exception of visitor’s buoys or anchoring and that the anchorages were well away from the town. As we approached Cala Llonga, an inlet about 2 miles from the town we saw several free visitors buoys and decided to pick one up for the night. Before long, someone came in a rib to collect the mooring fee of 15.50€ for the night. We enquired about mooring buoys nearer the town but were told they were all full so the next morning we took the dinghy ashore in the hope of getting a bus into town. We were disappointed to find there were no buses from here and as a 2 hour walk in the heat did not appeal, we bought a few provisions in the small supermarket at the head of the Cala and returned to the boat. The following morning we decided to go in to Mahon for fuel and water and try and secure a mooring nearer the town. We thought we’d struck lucky when we picked up the only vacant mooring in Cala Rata, a short dinghy trip across from the main quay but a marinero quickly appeared and told us we could not stay as this was a resident’s mooring (for which the owner had paid a lot on money!) and not for visitors, despite being the same distinctive bright yellow colour. Things worked out though – a neighbouring visitor’s mooring became free and we picked that up and stayed for the next three nights. Interestingly the other mooring was continually being picked up by visiting boats only to be shooed away by the marineros! You’d wonder why they didn’t put a notice on the buoy indicating it was private. 

However on chatting to the marinero the next day we discovered the mooring situation is likely to get worse next year as his company had just lost the contract to manage moorings in Mahon and the new company was expected to remove all the moorings and put in pontoons to tempt larger boats and significantly increase the prices from the already expensive 50€ per night for a pontoon berth in high season. It seems the needs of the ordinary yachtsman are being neglected in favour of the super rich in their super yachts, already much in evidence in the harbour. Nonetheless we liked the harbour and town, its old buildings still showing evidence of the British occupation in the 18th and 19th centuries. The old town is reached by a steep climb from the harbour affording lovely views across the bay. Its narrow winding streets were fun to explore and it has a lovely covered market and fish market.

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The busy harbour at Mahon

After a few days there, we headed north to Fornells in the north east corner of the island. It was one of the few overcast days we have experienced with an unpleasant one metre swell but we were able to sail the final three hours and by the time we arrived the sun was shining and we found a good spot to anchor south of the town. Fornells sits in a very large beautiful natural harbour with the town in the north-west corner. The rest of the bay appeared very undeveloped. Our anchorage was near a busy sailing school and we had much entertainment watching the mainly young pupils learn to sail dinghies and wind surfers. The town is picturesque and offers agreeable walks out to the nearby headlands. We very much enjoyed our few days here and took the opportunity to visit Cuitadella by bus on the west coast. Cuitadella used to be the capital of Menorca and is a very attractive old town on a narrow inlet, although there is now little room for visiting yachts as the visitors quay is closed following several accidents between yachts and ferries. We had a good lunch in the local yacht club overlooking the harbour, which reminded us a little of St Marten in the Ile de Re in France. An afternoon of exploring the old town and shopping included the purchase of a pair of traditional Menorcan sandals at a bargain price (always the way to a woman’s heart!)

We had met up with Terry and Emma on Libertine again in Fornells and agreed to cross to Sardinia with them – a passage or about 190 miles. They had headed south to Mahon and on 7th August we received a text indicating the next two days looked a good weather window for the trip. Reviewing the weather forecast in an internet café we agreed with their view – it was anticipated to be a little breezy the following morning with N to NE 4 – 5 breezes but decreasing to F3 by the afternoon and then be settled for the rest of the weekend. After some rushing about all day Friday to get food and water on board and prepare some meals to eat at sea, we were ready. We’d leave from Fornells and Terry and Emma from Mahon some 20 miles south and keep in touch by VHF radio.

We rose at 0530am the following morning, checked the weather which had not significantly changed and departed at 0610am. The wind was a useful NE F4 giving us good speed with one reef in the main and full genoa sailing at about 60 degrees off the wind (sorry if this is a bit technical for our non boat owning readers!). The sea however was rougher that we’d anticipated giving us an uncomfortable and occasionally wet passage until the middle of the first afternoon when both the sea and wind decreased. By 6.30pm we had to start the engine as the wind died away, before eating our pre-prepared home made cottage pie to sustain us through the night! Taking it in turns to keep watch and sleep through the night proved uneventful in the calm and moonlit conditions, without sighting another vessel. Annoyingly our Navtex failed to receive an updated weather forecast from either France or Spain so we trusted to luck that the forecast was still settled.

The following morning dawned hot, sunny and still and stayed that way all day. No further sailing was possible and by the time we spotted the Sardinian coast about 1.15 that afternoon the sea was like a mirror and it was very, very hot with no wind. We finally made landfall in Alghero on the north-west coast around 4.30pm on 9th August after 34 hours at sea, just inside our target of 36 hours. We had failed to raise Terry and Emma on the VHF radio throughout the crossing, probably because we were just too far apart, but found them in Alghero having arrived two hours ahead of us. The harbour was very busy as this was Italian’s peak holiday season but we did manage to secure a berth (albeit with no toilets or showers – but that’s another story perhaps in the next instalment) and were pleased to be in port after the longest crossing we have done two-handed.

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Making landfall in Alghero, Sardinia

We very much enjoyed our month in the Balearics. Much of the islands remain unspoilt by tourist development and are very beautiful. Although many marinas are prohibitively expensive in high season there are numerous sheltered anchorages and moorings and although it was of course busy, we always managed to secure a berth. We also enjoyed some good sailing particularly on the longer passages between the islands. We look forward to visiting the islands again one day.

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#13 2011-09-24 11:49:53

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Sardinia - August to October 2009

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Making landfall at Alghero

We soon discovered that we had arrived in Sardinia at the height of the Italian’s peak holiday season and both the harbour and town of Alghero seemed to be packed to capacity. The harbour does not have a single marina but a series of pontoons leased to different concessions. We had been advised that the “Ser Mar” pontoons were the best for visitors, run by the helpful Frederico and the only place in the harbour with toilets and showers. We were therefore extremely disappointed to find that the toilet and shower block had been closed by the authorities about 2 weeks before due to what seemed to be a planning dispute. It was therefore a very expensive 40€ a night for a pontoon berth with no facilities. However having spent the previous 2 weeks either at anchor or on mooring buoys it was useful to be ashore and able to catch up on shopping, laundry, boat maintenance and cleaning, so we decided to stay 3 nights before moving further north. Alghero also has an interesting old town which was worth a visit. It felt strange to be in a new country after over 3 months in Spain and we certainly need to brush up on our elementary Italian if we are going to make ourselves understood!

From Alghero we headed just a few miles north to Porto Conte, a large bay sheltered by huge cliffs and one of a number of areas of Sardinia to have been declared a marine reserve to protect the natural environment. We anchored in the picturesque Cala del Bollo. From here we walked along the coast and down the 657 steps of the “mountain goat staircase” to reach the spectacular Neptune’s Grotto, a series of large underground caves which have been open to the public since 1950’s. It was well worth the effort, although climbing back up the 657 steps in temperatures over 30 degrees was quite a challenge!

Unfortunately we found the anchorage wasn’t as peaceful as we had hoped due to the nightly entertainment provided for a nearby hotel. This reached a crescendo on the night of a major festival on 15 August when we were treated to music until 4am followed by a visit from three very drunk naked young Italian men in a rubber dinghy in search of beer and parties!! They left, sadly disappointed ……….

The next day we were therefore ready to move on in search of more peaceful places when we discovered we had a leak from our fuel tank. We had filled up with fuel in Alghero but due to a blockage in the breather pipe which normally warns us that the tank is full, we managed to overfill it. We then found that quite a lot of diesel had leaked into the moulding that surrounds the tank, and had to siphon out about 7 litres of diesel. Fortunately the moulding did not drain in to the bilge. Simon then removed a small cover from the top of the tank to find it was still full to overflowing and we had to siphon out a further 12 or so litres to bring the leak under control. However it has continued to weep from a seam at the bottom of the tank and we think that the overfilling must have caused a small hole in what is nearly a 20 year old tank. We remained at anchor at Porto Conte for a couple more nights to monitor the leak in case it was necessary to return to Alghero for urgent repairs but decided it was weeping at a rate which we could control by regular mopping up and hope that repair or replacement of the tank is a job that can be tackled over the winter.

On a hot and still Sunday morning we left Porto Conte and headed 30 miles further north up the west coast of Sardinia. The wind remained a light north westerly for much of the time and we were forced to motor most of the way to the Fornelli Passage.

This is a very narrow channel between the north west corner of Sardinia and the Isola Asinara. Passing through it saves about 20 miles compared to rounding the north of the island but presents an interesting pilotage challenge as the channel has depths of only 3 metres in some places and careful attention must be paid to following the leading marks to ensure one doesn’t run aground in the shallows either side of the passage. Luckily it was a flat calm day and we motored safely through with a careful eye on the yacht in front of us, the depth gauge and the chart plotter!  From here we motored a further 10 miles up to the Rada della Real, a large bay on the Isola Asinara which is also a marine reserve and where a large number of mooring buoys have been laid for visiting yachts. The wind had freshened by now to a blustery force 5 but unhelpfully right on the nose so on arrival we were pleased to secure a vacant buoy, albeit at a rather pricey 30€ a night.

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Isola Asinara

The Isola Asinara has an interesting history, having previously been a leper colony, First World War prisoner of war camp and later a high security prison for those convicted of organised crime. Now the buildings are empty and the island has a slightly eerie, abandoned feel despite its beautiful setting. It also has a native species of tiny albino donkey which made their presence felt by braying through the night! We found it a strange, fascinating place to visit.

The following morning we motor sailed across the bay to Castelsardo. Sardinia has a turbulent history, having been invaded many times over the centuries by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs and the Spanish before finally becoming part of Italy in the 18th century. Consequently many of its strategically placed ports have ancient fortified citadels and Castelsardo is one such town making it an interesting place to explore. After a couple of days here we left to head north towards the Maddalena Archipelago to meet Jo’s sister who was arriving in a few days time for a week’s holiday. It was our intention to sail about 30 miles that day up to an anchorage in the lee of Cabo Testa at the entrance to the Bonifacio Strait. However strong headwinds and the choppy sea they quickly whip up meant we were making very slow progress so in the early afternoon we decided we had struggled long enough and headed into an anchorage off the beach at Isola Rossa, about half way to our intended destination. Swimming and sun bathing seemed a more attractive prospect than beating to windward for another 6 hours! However we did have to beat off the advances of a German catamaran who anchored just too close to us. The next morning we rose early and left the anchorage by 7.30am. Today the winds were lighter and we rounded Cabo Testa by 11am reaching Palau by lunch time.

Palau is the gateway to the Maddalena Islands which lie off the north east corner of Sardinia and we had hoped to get a berth somewhere here to enable us to collect a hire car that we had already booked and meet Jo’s sister, Libby at the airport. However it is a very popular holiday destination and the area was heaving with all manner of boats – ferries, yachts and motor boats both large and small. The harbour was packed to capacity and there was no space available. We anchored overnight in a nearby bay and the next morning tried again to secure a berth. There was still no space in Palau but after some slightly frantic searching eventually obtained a mooring off a small yacht club just a few miles from Palau. This was a great relief as it enabled us to pick up our car and meet Libby the following day.

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The harbour at Bonifacio

We had an enjoyable week together, visiting some of the lovely anchorages in the Maddalena Islands and Bonifacio in southern Corsica, just across the narrow Bonifacio Strait which divides the islands of Corsica and Sardinia.

We were taken aback by how busy (and expensive) it was everywhere, much worse than the Solent on a summer weekend! Sailing in light winds was impossible in any of the narrower channels due to the constant wash from motor boats roaring by and during the day, all the anchorages were full to capacity. However, the Italians do not seem too keen on anchoring overnight, preferring to be tucked up in an expensive marina, so late in the afternoon the anchorages would begin emptying giving us several peaceful and pleasant nights in beautiful surroundings. The sea around Sardinia is crystal clear turquoise water and lovely for swimming and snorkelling.

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Caladh moored in the Maddalena Islands

Bonifacio is well worth a visit for its spectacular setting. The small harbour is surrounded by high cliffs and approached through a very narrow channel, with the marina at its head. Above it towers the old fortified town, perched on the cliff tops from where there are extensive views towards Sardinia. It was also packed to capacity and initially it looked as if we would be turned away but by chance we met Neil, the son of Caladh’s previous owners who was skippering a large 62 foot catamaran and kindly persuaded one of the marinero’s that they could squeeze us in! For a tiny harbour, Bonifacio attracted a large number of super yachts and there was lots of people watching to be done, seeing how the other half live! However it was soon time to head further south towards Olbia, from where Libby would catch her plane home.

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Bonifacio old town

We decided to spend the penultimate night anchored in the Golf of Marinella on the north east coast of Sardinia but as we entered the bay we were hit by a terrific storm with spectacular thunder and lightening, torrential rain and winds gusting up to 30 knots. Anchoring in these conditions was somewhat challenging but luckily the holding was good. It was also a bit of a shock as we hadn’t seen any rain for the previous 3 months!

We reached Olbia the following day and eventually secured a berth in the yacht club with help on the telephone from our niece Emma who lives near Milan and speaks fluent Italian. She has kindly come to our rescue on several occasions since we arrived in Sardinia as very little English is spoken here and we have sometimes struggled to make ourselves understood.  Libby caught her plane the following morning and we spent a couple of days exploring Olbia, which we liked a lot. After the overcrowded holiday resorts in the Maddalena Archipelago it was good to be in a real town, where ordinary people lived and worked! Although the commercial harbour is not beautiful, the town has an attractive main street, good shops and appealing old buildings. Close by were also two interesting exhibitions to visit. There were replicas from the Terracotta Army on tour from China, which made us want to visit the real thing one day and also a fascinating exhibition about Leonardo da Vinci’s “machines”, complete with working models made from his own original drawings. Undoubtedly he was a man well ahead of his time.

From Olbia we sailed just a few miles south to the Isola Tavolara, a lovely island anchorage off a beautiful beach, sheltered by the huge rocky cliffs.  It was now the very end of August and we also began to notice the holiday crowds beginning to ease. After a pleasant couple of days swimming and taking it easy there we had a gentle 17 mile sail south in light easterly winds to the harbour of La Caletta, where we secured a berth in the yacht club. La Caletta is a small holiday resort on the east coast and after a couple of days here, we rose early and left about 8am to head further south. The previous night’s forecast had indicated there would be moderate northerly winds but when the Italian forecast came through on our Navtex about 9am it was forecasting winds of south-westerly force 7, becoming force 8 overnight! A south-westerly wind would mean a windward passage and as it would take at least 6 hours to reach the next safe harbour, we reluctantly decided the only prudent thing to do was turn round and go back to La Caletta. However very frustratingly the forecast strong winds never materialised that day but arrived the following morning!

After two more nights in La Caletta, the winds seemed to have eased so we decided to head south again. When we got out into the open sea it was breezier than it seemed in the marina, blowing force 4-5 but from the north so we put a reef in the main and began sailing south. The Italian forecast came through predicting a northerly force 7 but as it was from astern (that’s from behind for our non-sailing readers!) and therefore easier to continue than beat back into La Caletta, this time we decided to carry on. The wind rose to force 6 by lunchtime but eased a little in the afternoon to force 5 giving us a lively and fast downwind sail across the Golf of Oresei. This part of the coast has some of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in Sardinia but sadly the stiff onshore breeze meant that conditions were not suitable for anchoring and exploring ashore that day. As we closed the land and approached the port of Santa Maria Navresse the wind freshened again and the sea became very choppy, so dropping the sails and entering the marina was a bit lively but with the help of the marina staff we were soon safely tied up in a berth.

Here we met Julian and Liz on Golden Dawn who we had last seen in Almerimar some 3 months ago and spent an enjoyable evening catching up on each others news. We were planning to head from here to Sicily where we hoped to lay up for the winter but the price we had been quoted by the boatyard in Trapani was considerably more than we had hoped to pay. This, coupled with their policy that boat owners could not do their own maintenance work made it prohibitively expensive and we were somewhat at a loss as to where we might over-winter. Julian and Liz advised us that they were planning to leave their boat in a yard in Cagliari, the Sardinian capital which lies on the south coast. We therefore hired a car and drove down there, spoke to the boatyard owner and much to our relief, secured winter storage for about the same price as we had paid in Portugal last year and half the price we had been quoted by the yard in Sicily.

All in all a great success, although hiring the car proved an interesting experience. We travelled to Cagliari, a journey of about 160 kilometres each way, on the Oriental Sarda road which traverses the mountainous east coast of Sardinia. It is a spectacular but very windy road although it has been improved in a number of places with wider, faster stretches. However the driving of the locals is some of the worst we have ever encountered – very fast and very impatient with no regard for speed limits and frequent overtaking despite blind bends and “no overtaking” signs. The passenger was a nervous wreck by the time we reached Cagliari, particularly as the driver discovered the hire car was quite nippy and decided to imagine he was Jenson Button!! Nevertheless we made it safely there and back and, having hired the car for two days decided to spend the second day exploring the mountain roads and villages inland from the marina. We had a lovely morning enjoying the spectacular scenery but it was cut short about midday when the fan belt came off the car on a remote mountain road and we had to call out the breakdown truck! We had been watching a herd of goats scramble up a steep hillside beside the road, setting off an avalanche of small stones and we think we may have picked up a stone which caused the belt to come off. The breakdown vehicle arrived about an hour and a half later and we were loaded onto the back of the truck and told we would be taken back to Tortolli from where we hired the car, a distance of some 20 kilometres. However, the truck had only 3 seats in its cabin and with the two breakdown staff there were four of us. Jo therefore had to sit on Simon’s knee (aarrghh!!) all the way back as we snaked our way down the mountain road, not comfortable for either of us! The clutch on the breakdown truck sounded and smelt like it could burn out at any moment making gear selection a noisy, hit and miss affair, so it was with some relief that we reached Tortolli! Some four weeks later we are still trying to negotiate a refund for the lost day’s car hire………

Despite this we enjoyed a pleasant week at Santa Maria Navresse. The marina is friendly and helpful and in a spectacular setting below steeply wooded hills. It is a pleasant small town and there are lovely walks along the surrounding cliffs. From here we headed 30 miles further south to Porto Corallo and after a calm and uneventful passage, arrived just ahead of a torrential thunder storm. This was to be the beginning of 2-3 weeks of unsettled weather, with spectacular electrical storms and torrential rain almost daily. Sadly we heard that Golden Dawn, who had headed north to the Maddalena Islands and were at anchor, had been struck by lightening during one of these storms and lost much of her electrical equipment, although thankfully Julian and Liz were safe.

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Stormy weather near Porto Corallo

Porto Corallo has a fairly new marina with many of its facilities yet to be completed and it is in the back of beyond! All the facilities in the nearby holiday village seemed to have closed for the season, even though it was only mid September and the bus service had finished for the year, so we had to hire bicycles and cycle 7 kilometres to the nearest shops and 10 kilometres to the only internet point in the area! It was therefore with some relief that we headed further south towards Villasimius on the south eastern tip of Sardinia. It was a calm still day and we had to motor for much of the 25 mile passage, before the sea breeze filled in and we beat around Capo Carbonara and into Villasimius. This is another fairly new marina in a lovely setting with a backdrop of mountains, rocky headlands and islands and white sand beaches. The nearby Noteri lagoon attracts flocks of migrating flamingos and the small town of Villasimius, about 3 kilometres from the marina, is bustling with a good range of shops and facilities. We spent a very enjoyable week here before heading to the Marina del Sole in Cagliari, just 15 miles along the coast, to begin laying up for the winter.

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Cabo Carbonara

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Flamingos at Villasimius

Cagliari is a busy city and port, with much of historical interest, including a Roman amphitheatre, a huge archaeological museum and an impressive walled bastion surrounding the old town high above the city. The marina is a small, family run business and has a small liveaboard population as well as a number of people like us who have come to prepare their boats for the winter. It is therefore a sociable place to stay and we spent a busy week, washing, cleaning and tidying up Caladh after the long season.  Jo’s mother then arrived for a land based holiday and we returned to Villasimius, this time staying in a small villa near the beach for an enjoyable 10 days relaxation before heading back to Cagliari to finish laying up the boat for the winter.

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The waterfront at Cagliari

We have sailed about 1500 miles this season, an almost identical distance to the previous year. Although we didn’t reach our intended destination of Greece, we feel it was sensible to spend more time exploring the places we visited rather than try to cover unrealistic distances and see little along the way. It has been a varied season. We enjoyed the Atlantic coast of Spain and visited some fascinating places, Cadiz, Seville, Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountains. We were disappointed by Gibraltar and found much of the natural beauty of the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca has been spoilt by ugly over-development. The highpoint of the summer was our month in the Balearics which are surprisingly unspoilt and a lovely cruising ground with many safe, natural harbours and a beautiful coastline. We have mixed feelings about Sardinia. It is undoubtedly a very beautiful island, particularly the south east coast, but it was unfortunate that we arrived in the peak holiday season. We found sailing in August unpleasantly crowded and ridiculously overpriced as well as finding many of the local people neither welcoming nor helpful and sometimes arrogant and rude. There seems to be no culture of customer service here, with a few notable exceptions.

Despite some unseasonable weather, we have enjoyed September and October more and have stayed in some lovely places. Over the summer we also enjoyed the company of the crews of a number of other yachts, including Jacana, Libertine, Golden Dawn, Mystical, Xavantes and Gipsy Rose. Next season we plan to head south to Sicily and Malta before hopefully reaching the Ionian Islands of Greece at last.

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#14 2011-09-24 11:58:16

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Sardinia to Sicily - May/June 2010

As I write this we are riding out a westerly gale at anchor in Cefalu harbour in northern Sicily, having crossed to Sicily from Sardinia on 5 and 6 June. We spent an enjoyable, if unexpectedly cold winter at home in Hayling Island and flew back to Cagliari in Sardinia on 5 May. We found Caladh to be safe and undamaged after her winter ashore in the Cantieri del Sole and began our annual maintenance. We had hoped to be back in the water within 10 days but it was eventually 3 weeks before we were afloat and a further 2 weeks before we finally set sail. This was due to a combination of jobs on the boat just taking longer than planned to complete and weather delays. However the Marina del Sole has an established community of liveaboards with an active social life and we enjoyed our time there in the company of friends old and new.

We waited several days in the boatyard for strong winds to blow through so that conditions were calm enough for boats to be craned into the water in safety and then a further 4-5 days in the marina for a second mistral to ease so we could cross to Sicily. This wind caused chaos in the marina with one boat breaking free of its anchor in the middle of the night and ending up sideways onto the pontoon. The somewhat rickety pontoons were themselves showing signs of strain and those boats unlucky enough to be on the exposed seaward ends were bucking up and down uncomfortably in the swell. Finally the wind eased and at 6am on 5 June we left Cagliari and set sail for Sicily.

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Caladh being craned into the water in Cagliari

After days of strong winds, the breeze remained a light force 2-3 for the whole passage and we motor sailed for 32 hours, finally reaching Trapani at 1400 hours on 6 June, a distance of 187 miles. It was a quiet, calm passage with little other shipping seen. The highlights were visits from local wildlife. First a small bird, probably a sanderling, flew onto the deck and rested for half an hour before flying off again and then early on the first evening, a group of 3-4 dolphins joined us, swimming in the bow wave of the boat for nearly half and hour. It was magical.

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Dolphin

Trapani is a town of contrasts. It is a large town with a busy, quite unattractive commercial harbour but the historic centre is beautiful with elegant buildings and a maze of back streets to explore. We spent the first 2 nights at anchor and then decided to go onto one of the pontoons in the harbour to enable us to spend more time ashore sightseeing. Rather than a marina in the heart of the noisy but sheltered commercial port, we opted for Columbus Yacht Services pontoons in a more attractive location near the old town, a decision that was later to prove a little unwise.

From here we took a cable car up to Erice, a medieval village perched on the top of the mountain which overlooks Trapani. Although rather touristy, it was well worth a visit and we spent a pleasant day exploring it. The following day forecast strong south easterly winds came in driven by a Sirocco wind blowing up from north Africa, gusting up to 40 knots. It was then that we discovered that our chosen pontoon was not particularly sheltered in winds from this direction and seas soon built up in the long fetch across the harbour, causing us a very uncomfortable 2 days when it was impossible at times to leave the boat safely as we bounced violently up and down in the swell. We feared the boat might be damaged but in the end survived largely unscathed, in part due to the active intervention of Francesco, the marina manager. With his staff he worked tirelessly putting on additional anchors and lines to protect the boats.

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Trapani

Once the wind eased it was time to be on the move. On the advice of friends we had decided to head along the more interesting north and east coasts of Sicily, rather than take the more direct route south towards Malta. We enjoyed a very pleasant sail 30 miles along the coast in a northerly force 3-4 wind to Castellamare di Golfo, where we hoped to anchor. However, we are finding our Italian Waters Pilot written some 5 years ago is becoming somewhat out of date. At Castellamare, work is ongoing to extend the harbour wall and anchoring has been banned so we were obliged to go into the Club Nautico, thankfully a reasonable 30€ a night, as we have heard several tales of 100€ a night marinas along this coast.
   
Castellamare is a pretty little port with a pleasant old town running up the steep hill behind and we spent an enjoyable few days there. From here we visited Segesta, a half hour bus ride away. Sicily is a much invaded island and was occupied by the Greeks in ancient times, Segesta being one of their settlements. It has a remarkably well preserved Doric temple and amphitheatre dating from the 5th century BC, set in a beautiful hilltop location with wide views across the surrounding countryside.

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Castellamare di Golfo

We were joined in Castellamare by 3 yachts who had left the Marina del Sole in Cagliari about a week after us – Gypsy Rose, Regina and JJ Boat and together we sailed in company some 60 miles east along the coast to Cefalu. Well, motored actually, as there was little wind. As we are continually being reminded this season so far, the Mediterranean is notorious for either having too much wind or not enough! Cefalu has an attractive harbour sheltered from the west by a large granite hill, La Rocca, which lies between the harbour and the town some 10 minutes walk away. We have been anchored here for a few days now. The first few were hot, sunny and calm (if rather rolly at night) and we explored the town and enjoyed swimming in the somewhat bracing sea for the first time this year. Gypsy Rose and Regina quickly moved on towards their intended destination of Greece but we decided to stay on while some more windy weather blew through before heading for the Aeolian Islands which lie 30 odd miles off the coast and are best visited in settled weather. The group of seven tiny islands include 2 active volcanoes, Vulcano and Stromboli and sound fascinating to visit. More of that next time we hope, as for the moment we are on “anchor watch”, praying our anchor will hold as the wind blows at gale force off shore and a gusty force 6-7 in the harbour. Winds are forecast to ease from tonight we hope………

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Doric temple at Segesta

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Simon in the amphitheatre at Segesta

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#15 2011-09-24 12:09:21

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Aeolian Islands, Malta and Sicily - June/July 2010

Once the wind finally eased, we left Cefalu early on 23 June to head for the Aeolian Islands. After a morning motoring in an uncomfortable swell left over from the recent gale, the wind filled in during the afternoon and we enjoyed a great sail across to Volcano. As we approached the island the live volcano which dominates the landscape could be seen gently smoking and as we entered the anchorage at Porto di Levante the smell of rotten eggs filled the air! Anchoring was a little tricky as the mountainous terrain means the water is very deep close to the shore so the shallower waters were quite crowded with yachts but eventually we were settled.

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Caladh anchored at Volcano

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Crater of Volcano with Aeolian Islands

The following morning we set off to walk up to the crater of the volcano and after a 45 minute climb up the steep path we reached the summit. It was well worth the effort. The crater is huge, dating from the last eruption in 1890 and it is possible to walk most of the way around its rim. Clouds of sulphurous steam rise from cracks in the crater, hinting at the activity beneath. The views from the top are spectacular across to the other islands as far as Stromboli some 30 miles away.

While in Volcano we also had a mud bath in the warm mud pool near the beach which is supposedly good for the health. After half an hour bathing in the rather smelly mud, we washed off by swimming in the hot spring that bubbles up in the sea nearby, although for a hot spring it was surprisingly chilly! It wasn’t a wholly unpleasant experience but some weeks and several washes later our swimming trunks still have a whiff of sulphur!

From Volcano we also took a trip to see the neighbouring islands of Lipari and Panarea, rather upmarket holiday destinations and finally to the highlight of the trip, Stromboli. Unlike Volcano, which smoulders and builds up pressure until eventually it may erupt again, Stromboli erupts continually to let off steam. Every 15 minutes or so it sends a large puff of smoke into the air, sometimes accompanied by fireworks and lava flow, best viewed at night. It wasn’t at its most spectacular the evening we were there but we were treated to two brief firework displays by the smoking giant.

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Stromboli

We very much enjoyed our time in the Aeolian Islands and after a few days weighed anchor and headed towards the notorious tidal gateway of the Strait of Messina. The strait separates mainland Italy and Sicily and at its northern end is only 1.5 miles wide. As the sea funnels through the narrow gap strong tides, whirlpools and water spouts are created (for the classical scholars amongst you, these are Scilla and Charybidis of whom Odysseus was warned on his passage through the strait). I am sure that on a rough day, particularly with strong wind over tide, this can be an unpleasant place to sail but on this day it was benign with calm seas, favourable tide and light winds. At its maximum the tide reached 4 knots and seemed much less challenging than sailing the rocky shores of the Alderney Race and the Little Russell or even the Needles Channel. However, the tide certainly helped us on our way and by lunchtime we had already reached our intended destination of Messina. The wind was freshening so we decided to carry on further south before stopping for the night.
         
While in the strait we were lucky witness the strange swordfish boats which operate in the area and have evolved to catch the fish which migrate through the strait. These large boats have a huge 10 metre mast with a crow’s nest on the top from which the captain steers the boat following the shoals of fish that apparently sleep on the surface during the day. Once spotted, harpooners on the enormous bowsprit attempt to spear the fish.

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Swordfish boat in the Strait of Messina

Once south of Messina, the sea breeze filled in and rapidly increased to force 5-6 from astern as it funnelled through the strait. This gave us a fast and lively sail to reach Taormina by the evening, a total of 62 miles that day. The anchorage lies off the beach under the picturesque town of Taormina perched high above. A popular tourist resort, it was once a favourite of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

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Street scene at Taormina
         
Although pleasant, the anchorage is rather rolly and after a slightly sleepless night we weighed anchor in the morning and headed a few miles further south to Riposto. Having spent the last 2 weeks at anchor we decided to treat ourselves to a few nights in the marina from where we planned to visit Etna which overshadows the town. It was a bit of a shock to find that from 30 June prices had risen to a hefty 66€ a night but we gritted our teeth and paid for 3 nights. The town was celebrating the feast of St Peter and St Paul and was lively and busy with excellent lights up the main street, reminiscent of Oxford Street at Christmas and very loud and colourful fireworks.

From here we caught the Ferrovia Circumetnea, a little train which takes you on a 56 mile circuit of Mount Etna (or is supposed to) from Riposto to Catania. The first half of the trip was lovely, going through picturesque countryside with stunning views of the volcano and the surrounding valleys. Then it turned into something reminiscent of British Rail – we all had to get off the train and onto a replacement bus service due to engineering works! After about an hour the bus reached another station where everyone (including the train driver) expected there to be a train to continue the journey. However it soon became clear there would be no train so it was back on the bus for the rest of the journey. Hot and frustrated (and a little grumpy) we finally reached Catania in time to have a quick look at the town. This is Sicily’s second city and a busy, rather grimy port but with some attractive squares in the centre of town. Simon said it reminded him of Southampton! We then caught the state rail back to Riposto. That was impressive – clean, air conditioned and comfortable even in the rush hour, on time and only 2.70€ for a 30 kilometre journey!

From Riposto we headed for Siracusa, some 40 miles south, motoring on a hot and windless day. We anchored in the large harbour overlooking the attractive old town and were pleased to see the crews of two boats we had met last season in Sardinia and catch up on their news. Siracusa has lots to see. As well as the old town there is a large archaeological park with Greek and Roman amphitheatres and huge caverns called Latomie which were enormous stone quarries from which the stone used to build the city was dug. However it is getting increasingly hot for sightseeing with temperatures well into the mid 30’s every day.
         
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Waterfront at Siracusa
         
After a few days we left Siracusa and its harbour full of lively jumping fish and headed for Malta. We anchored overnight in the fishing harbour of Porto Palo on Sicily’s southern tip and left at 6.30am the following morning to cross to Malta, about 55 miles south west. Once the wind filled in mid morning we had a cracking sail. The wind had rather more south in it than was ideal so we had to beat across with the wind between 50 and 60 degrees off the nose but in a lively force 4-5 wind we had an enjoyable and quick sail, reaching the Maltese coast by 3pm and heading for Msida Creek just outside Valletta. We were keen to moor here to meet up with some friends and also because it is very reasonably priced at 14€ plus tax a night, although there are no facilities. There wasn’t much space for visitors but we managed to squeeze on the end of the quay and spent a week here, catching up with friends and exploring the island.

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Valletta

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Bus station in Valletta

We enjoyed Malta and found everyone friendly and helpful. Valletta is a busy town served by a fleet of historic buses dating from the 1950’s. Its historic centre is on a peninsula protruding into the harbour, fortified by the high walls of its bastion. The ornate cathedral and Grand Palace are closely associated with the Knights of St John who ruled Malta for nearly three centuries. As well as exploring Valletta we visited the small town of Mosta, famous for its church which boasts the third largest dome in Europe after St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London. We explored Mdina, a small walled city with beautiful medieval buildings, which was the historic capital of the island and nearby Rabat, where St Paul is said to have lived in a cave after he was shipwrecked on the shores of Malta. Rabat also has extensive catacombs which were the city’s ancient burial grounds and are now a slightly grizzly tourist attraction (and a welcome break from the heat of the day!).

After a week sightseeing it was time to move on and explore Malta’s smaller neighbours, Gozo and Comino. We spent a lovely couple of days anchored in St Niklaw Bay on tiny Comino, swimming in the crystal clear water and generally taking it easy before heading for Mgarr harbour on Gozo, its main port. Despite being busy with ferries and many other boats, the place has a relaxed feel and the locals still bring their horses down in the evening for a cooling dip in the sea. From here we spent a day exploring the island, which is 6 miles by 4 miles, visiting the capital Victoria with its walled citadel high on a hill in the centre of the island. The town was celebrating the feast of St George, marked by flags, statues, a marching band and lots of very loud fireworks, by day and night.

The coast of Gozo consists of high limestone and sandstone cliffs creating spectacular natural arches, caves and grottos, popular with divers. However, it has few beaches and so we took a ferry back to Comino to see the Blue Lagoon, a popular bay famous for its clear turquoise waters. It was a lovely place to swim but was absolutely packed with day trippers – too popular for its own good.
         
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Coastline of Gozo

We left Mgarr after 3 nights and decided to entertain ourselves by spending an afternoon circumnavigating the island. This proved less relaxing than anticipated as a stiff force 5-6 sea breeze got up and forced us to beat around the top of the island hard on the wind in a very choppy sea. Around the high headlands the wind was very fluky but eventually we were able to bear away onto a more comfortable point of sail to complete the trip in 6 hours! We then planned to anchor for a couple of nights on Comino before heading back to Sicily but in the night Jo developed raging toothache and we had to return to Mgarr for an urgent visit to the dentist. An abscess was diagnosed and antibiotics prescribed so we set of again the following day, hoping they will take effect soon!

Leaving Mgarr about 7am we headed north towards Sicily, some 60 miles away. However the wind remained light for most of the day and we only managed to sail for 2.5 hours, making for a slow passage, eventually anchoring off Capo Passero on Sicily’s southern tip about 6.30pm. The highlight of the day was seeing a large turtle swimming by just a few feet from the boat. After a pleasant evening and peaceful night in this quiet anchorage behind a rocky island, we set sail for Siracusa where we are now anchored. From here we plan to cross to Rocella Ionica on the heel of Italy and from there to the Ionian Islands of Greece.

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#16 2011-09-24 12:17:12

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Sicily to Greece - August/September 2010

We spent a few days in Siracusa resolving some maintenance problems with the boat, which required us to replace a damaged fuel pipe and have the fridge re-gassed, neither of which was much fun in temperatures up to 40 degrees centigrade! Once everything was shipshape again we left Siracusa in the late afternoon of 28 July and set out on a night passage from Sicily to Rocella Ionica in Calabria on the toe of southern Italy, a crossing of about 95 miles. It was a quiet trip, motoring or motor sailing in calm seas with the highlight being a fantastic final view of Mount Etna as the sun set on the horizon.

We spent a relaxing few days in Rocella, which is a lively seaside town with a long sandy beach and a pizzeria which sells pizza by the metre! From here we aimed to sail to Crotone, 62 miles further along the coast across the notoriously breezy Golfo di Squilliace. Setting of about 6.20am we motored for a while in a flat calm before the wind set in and blew force 4 to 5 right on the nose with a choppy sea. By early afternoon we decided we’d had enough of bashing into it and headed into Le Castella, a small harbour created in an old quarry with a very narrow, rocky, shallow entrance which we negotiated with caution! Once we had managed to secure a berth in the crowded harbour we found it to be a busy holiday resort and enjoyed a couple of days there before finally reaching Crotone, our last port of call in Italy.

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Le Castella, Calabria

Our guide books had been rather sniffy about Calabria, suggesting it was a somewhat down at heel, uninteresting area but we enjoyed our stay there. True it was a bit scruffy in places and certainly not a wealthy area but the towns were lively, the coastal scenery was attractive and the people were friendly. We felt it was an area we would like to explore more one day. However our priority now was to finally reach Greece after four summers since we set sail from Hayling Island in April 2007.
At 8.30am on 5 August we left Crotone in company with Wild Bird, a Bowman 40 who was making the same crossing. For an hour we had a good sail, joined for a while by a group of dolphins, but then the wind died and we motored or motor sailed the remaining 145 miles, reaching Gaios on the island of Paxos the following morning and mooring up in the busy harbour. The highlight of the crossing had been an amazing night sky, with a myriad of stars, the Milky Way and a series of meteor shows all clearly visible.

Gaios is a picturesque harbour and in August it’s a busy and popular spot, filled with yachts and day trippers.

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Gaios, Paxos

Within an hour of arrival we were surrounded by large boats full of day trippers from Corfu and Levkas and it all seemed very hectic, particularly when the captain of the neighbouring trip boat berated us for having a kedge anchor line of warp which could catch his propellers. Luckily his threat to use his big knife to cut it if necessary wasn’t carried out! However within a couple of hours of their arrival the trip boats were all gone to be replaced by yachts and motor boats coming in for the evening. After a few beers and a meal out with the crew of Wild Bird we felt more chilled and enjoyed a good night’s sleep before heading out in search of more peaceful anchorages.

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Simon enjoying the sunshine

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Loggerhead turtle

From Paxos we had a cracking sail down to the entrance to the Levkas canal with a north westerly wind behind us, entering Levkas via the lifting bridge along with a large flotilla of 25 to 30 other yachts. Since arriving in Greece we have spent the last few weeks pottering around the southern Ionian Islands – Levkas, Ithaca, Kalamos, Kastos and our particular favourite Meganisi. The islands remain as picturesque and largely unspoilt as they were some 20 years ago when we first sailed here as thankfully the mountainous terrain has limited development. The sea is crystal clear with lovely anchorages and harbours. However it is very much busier than it was then and continues to be so well into September, with lots of charter and flotilla yachts, as well as liveaboards, all competing for quay space. It has become somewhat more cosmopolitan, the food has improved (although we still miss Italian cuisine) and the people are friendly and welcoming. Greece’s economic troubles do not seem to be affecting the island’s tourist trade greatly and although the cost of living here is not as cheap as in the past, it still represents good value for money, particularly as mooring is mainly free or with only a nominal charge. A great treat after Italian marina prices!

We’ve enjoyed visits from friends and family and also catching up with the crews of some of the yachts we met in previous seasons, notably Libertine, Xavantes, Gypsy Rose, Golden Dawn and Wayward. We enjoyed all the areas we cruised this year. Highlights of the season have included sailing with a school of dolphins between Sardinia and Sicily; climbing to the crater of Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands and seeing Mount Etna; a fantastic sail from Sicily to Malta and our time there; reaching the Ionian Islands and seeing a loggerhead turtle swimming off Meganisi.

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Caladh anchored off Kastos

We have just one final week’s sailing left this season before we head to Messalonghi Marina to lay up the boat for the winter and fly home. Generally the September weather has been fantastic, with lots of sunshine and very pleasant temperatures after the heat of July and August but as I write this it is raining heavily, gently preparing us for a return to the English winter! We are looking forward to exploring more of Greece next season.

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#17 2011-09-24 12:31:12

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Greece - June 2011

With our little white van loaded up with equipment for the coming season, we caught the night ferry from Portsmouth to Caen on 26 April and drove across France, through the Mont Blanc tunnel and into Italy, where we stopped to visit Simon’s niece Emma near Lake Maggiore. After a pleasant couple of days there, we got up before dawn and drove across northern Italy to the port of Ancona, to catch a ferry down the Adriatic to Greece. Arriving in Patras some 24 hours later after an enjoyable crossing, we managed to take a wrong turning leaving the ferry port and get horribly lost in this large, busy city. After a fraught 45 minutes, we eventually found the right road and crossed the huge suspension bridge which spans the Gulf of Patras to head north for Messolonghi, where Caladh had been laid up for the winter.

All was well with the boat on our arrival and after a busy week painting and polishing we were craned safely back into the water. After a further few days preparation we set sail on 13 May and headed for Vathy on Ithaca, some 40 miles away. There was no wind and we had to motor all the way but on arrival in Vathy the wind inevitably freshened and blew hard all evening! However our new Rocna anchor, purchased over the winter from a former Victoria owner, performed well and after a good night’s sleep we sailed to Spartohori on Meganisi, enjoying a cracking sail with a force 4-5 wind on the beam. After an enjoyable weekend there we headed for Nidri on Lefkas, where we were scheduled to have some planned improvements to Caladh, the fitting of an electric anchor windlass and a new fridge, both of which we had brought over from England.

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Caladh at Spartohori

The work began as planned the following day and by the end of the week was all finished, efficiently carried out by Ionian Boat Assistance. We spent the weekend practicing with our new anchor windlass at Ormos Vliho and were delighted with it, making the back breaking task (for Simon!) of bringing up the anchor so much easier. However the new fridge was not performing as it should do, so the following week IBA came out and diagnosed it was over-gassed, a manufacturing fault. This was corrected but over the next few days, we were still not happy it was working as it should as it was struggling to maintain a low enough temperature and the compressor was running almost continuously. Much frustration and head scratching ensued but after taking advice and research on the internet, Simon concluded we (he….) had under-estimated the volume of our fridge and should have bought a larger evaporator plate. This was duly ordered, sent from Athens and fitted by IBA and we are now very pleased with our new fridge and its very useful small freezer compartment, despite the additional expense. After a frustrating delay of 2 weeks, we were finally ready to head south as planned.

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Fisherman at Ormos Vliho

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First swim of the season

We sailed down to Sami on Cephalonia on 5 June and spent a pleasant few days there waiting for the wind to come into the north. Its one of our favourite harbours in the Ionian and despite a couple of crossed anchors and some strong winds, we enjoyed our stay here. One day we walked to the impressive Drogarati Cave, a huge single chamber with many stalagmites and stalactites but showing signs of some damage from the caves varied history, including earthquakes, wartime fighting and the creation of a concert space for Maria Callas to perform! Together with the crew of Dignity, we also spent a convivial evening aboard our neighbour’s yacht Taffy, where we were kindly treated to a tasty mackerel supper courtesy of a gift from some friendly local fishermen.

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Drogarati Cave

When the wind turned back into the north we headed south again towards Zakynthos, an island we have not visited before. By mid morning the wind freshened to force 5 and we bore away from our intended destination of Ay Nikolaos towards Zakynthos town to get a better point of sail. After a lively broad reach, we reached the busy port and managed to successfully moor stern to the quay, never an easy task in a boat that doesn’t like to go backwards in a straight line! The harbour master arrived almost instantaneously to collect 15 Euros a night from us and we have noticed that Greek harbours (certainly the larger ones) are becoming more vigilant about collecting harbour dues, although they are generally a very reasonable 10 to 15 Euros. No doubt this is a sign of the economic challenges Greece is facing.

Zakynthos town was busy but quite pleasant, although the east coast of the island is very developed with a string of tourist resorts merging into one another north and south of the town and threatening the breeding grounds of the loggerhead turtle on the beaches of the south coast. However we hired a car for a day and explored the wilder, quieter north and west coasts notable for their high cliffs and winding mountain roads.

While we were in Zakynthos it was very windy for a few days and boats were finding mooring up quite difficult in the cross wind, with consequently lots of crossed anchors. After having our anchor pulled out by departing yachts three times in as many days, we were ready for a change of scene. Thankfully the wind eased and we headed 25 miles further south to the mainland town of Katakolon, from where we would begin our planned cruise of the Peloponnisos. Katakolon is the nearest harbour for visiting Olympia and has built a new area of the port to accommodate cruise liners, with up to 3 a day visiting. In consequence the town has lots of souvenir shops, bars and tavernas but little else, virtually closing down in the early evening after the last cruise ship has departed. However it does have a small train taking visitors directly from the quay to Olympia, the site of the ancient Pan-Hellenic Games in the centuries before the birth of Christ, which inspired the creation of the modern Olympic Games in the late 19th century. The archaeological site is a huge sprawl of ancient ruins but in the adjacent museum, the statues and artefacts demonstrate the sophistication of the Greek culture some 25 centuries ago.

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Olympia

Leaving Katakolon we had yet another tangled anchor with our neighbour. This is the curse of Mediterranean style mooring where boats drop their anchor a few boat lengths out and reverse onto the quay to lie alongside a neighbouring yacht. It makes maximum use of available space where there is no tide. However if there is a strong crosswind or like us, you have a long keeled yacht that doesn’t reverse easily in a straight line, it’s all too easy to inadvertently drop an anchor over a neighbour’s anchor. If that neighbour then wants to leave first, it’s a recipe for chaos. With care, the anchor spaghetti can be unscrambled but it’s then important to drop your neighbour’s anchor back in the sea in line with his boat to avoid a further tangle, something inexperienced crews fail to realise with resultant additional chaos! Tolerance and patience are required at all times!

From Katakolon we sailed south to the small town of Kiparissia, where the recently improved harbour defences make it a useful stopping point along the coast, with good shops to replenish our stores and ample water to catch up on the laundry, before heading further south to Pilos.

The coast as you approach Pilos is spectacular, with high castle topped cliffs and a large natural arch, before entering the large circular bay of Navarinou. This bay was the scene of the decisive Battle of Navarinon in 1827 during the Greek War of Independence, when a combined English, French and Russian fleet sank the Turkish-Egyptian fleet which was anchored in the bay. We climbed up to the large rambling and largely derelict castle at Pilos. The Greeks take a relaxed attitude to health and safety and by scrambling over the high, unfenced ramparts one can enjoy a fabulous view across the wide bay and the scene of the battle.

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Ormos Navarinou

Pilos is one of a number of harbours along this coast where much investment has been made in building new quays at some point in recent years, with a view to creating a marina but work has never been completed. Yachts can tie up to the quay but the water and electricity has never been connected and everything has a somewhat rundown, slightly abandoned feel. Fewer yachts venture along this coast compared to the very popular Ionian Islands further north, which gives it a peaceful, relaxed if somewhat down-at-heel charm. Reading about fears for the Greek economy in an English newspaper we bought in the town and talking to local people, one wonders whether the earlier plans to create a marina and attract more visitors will ever be realised.

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The harbour at Pilos

We are now lying at anchor in the picturesque harbour at Methoni on the south west tip of the Peloponnisos, under the walls of the large Venetian fortress, rolling gently in the slight swell.

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#18 2011-09-24 13:00:16

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Methoni to Koiladhia - June/July 2011

The southern Peloponnisos is a land of castles, monasteries and caves. The wild, mountainous terrain was much fought over through the centuries by the Venetians, the Turks and the Greeks, resulting in a wealth of fortifications along the deeply indented coastline. From the lovely anchorage at Methoni, which proved to be one of our favourite places, we headed east to Koroni. The anchorage here was quite picturesque, although some care was needed due to the large boulders that littered the sea bed. We had to re-anchor after encircling one with our anchor chain as we swung around in the breeze! We climbed up to the inevitable castle above the town and scrambled around the ruins until we came upon a small monastery which allowed visitors. It seemed to be the home of about six elderly nuns who welcomed us with turkish delight and let us look at their tiny church and beautifully tended gardens, from where there was a lovely view of the surrounding coastline. It seemed a peaceful existence, growing fruit and vegetables and keeping a few sheep and chickens.

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The anchorage at Koroni

The attractive town of Koroni was marred only by its scruffy unfinished quay and the unpleasant whiff of sewage around the harbour! From here we headed towards Kalamata, the largest town in the area and famous for its olives, stopping for a night en route in a quiet anchorage at Petalidhion, where we were the only yacht. Kalamata has a good marina but the town is showing signs of the recession and is rather scruffy and down at heel, with many derelict buildings around the under-utilised commercial port. However it was an opportunity to catch up on laundry and top up with water and provisions. It was also a chance to see more of the surrounding countryside and we hired a car for a day to explore the area. We drove initially down the Mani Peninsular, the countryside becoming bleaker and wilder as we went south. Our aim was to visit the Diros Caves, which are viewed from small boats which tour the flooded cave system through narrow passages covered by beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

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Simon modestly dressed at the monastery at Koroni

From here we drove north to the ruined Byzantine city of Mystras. In a spectacular location high on a mountainside, this world heritage site was certainly worth a visit. Dating from the 13th century, a number of churches with colourful frescoes and a small monastery survive, as well as a ruined citadel towering over the site. It was worth the long climb to the top for the panoramic view over the surrounding countryside. From here we took the main road back to Kalamata, which turned out to be a spectacular mountain road over the Taygetos Mountains by way of the dramatic Langada Pass, climbing to a height of over 1500 metres.

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The ruined city at Mystras

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A nun tending the gardens at Mystras

A couple of days later we left Kalamata to sail south around the Mani Peninsular to Porto Kaiyo, a passage of about 50 miles around Cape Tainaron, one of the most southerly points in mainland Europe. Leaving Kalamata early in the morning, we had to motor until lunchtime when the wind filled in from the north, enabling us to broad reach down the coast and around the cape in an increasingly lively sea. As we rounded the cape the wind, which was by now blowing a good force 6 with gusts up to 28 knots, came around onto the nose giving us a lively beat into the large bay at Porto Kaiyo. The bay is surrounded by high mountains down which the wind funnels, making it a notoriously windy anchorage. This, combined with poor holding in rock and weed with just a thin layer of sand, make for tricky anchoring and it took several attempts to get the anchor to bite and hold but finally we were secure. It is a beautiful, wild and remote stop with just 3 tavernas and a few rooms to let, off a small beach. Despite the breezy conditions we enjoyed a couple of nights there before heading for Elafonisos, a small island about 20 miles further east. The island is known for its white sand beaches and turquoise sea and we spent the first night anchored in the largest bay in the south of the island, Ormos Sarakiniko. However quite a significant swell worked into the bay making for an uncomfortable night and with a forecast of south westerly winds up to force 6 to 7, we left early the next morning to seek shelter in Ormos Levki, a bay on the east coast of the island. This was a beautiful spot, well sheltered in winds from the west and we enjoyed a relaxed couple of days there, swimming and taking it easy.

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Caladh anchored at Porto Kaiyo

On 5 July we rose early to head east around Cape Malea to Monemvasia. The headland, on the south eastern tip of the Peloponnisos, has spectacular scenery including a tiny monastery on the cliff edge, inaccessible by road. The cape is also a notoriously windy headland but this day it was flat calm and we had to motor all the way! Indeed Simon had to change the fan belts on the engine under the lighthouse on the eastern tip of the headland when they broke unexpectedly as we motored around, so we were grateful for calm waters. On arrival at Monemvasia we were lucky to secure an alongside berth in the sheltered inner harbour next to David and Lesley on “Hie” a Hurley 31, who we had met briefly the previous season in the Ionian. The harbour is notable for a small group of loggerhead turtles which live there, happily swimming among the boats.

Monemvasia has picture postcard scenery. It is dominated by a large rock, dubbed a mini Rock of Gibraltar, with a beautifully restored Byzantine town nestling on it, topped by another ruined castle. With a combination of lots to see in the area and a few days of very strong north easterly winds, we ended up stopping there for 9 days. On one of these we hired a car with David and Lesley and drove across the mountains to the port of Neapolis from where we explored some more caves at Kastania. Despite this being our third cave visit this summer, they were worth it as the large system was beautifully preserved, having been kept a secret for many years by the shepherd who found them as they gave him a small source of water, something that is very rare in this region. Only when he saw photographs of the Diros Caves when they first opened to the public did he realise the importance of what he had found in his field. From the caves we drove over the mountains through some lovely villages and spectacular gorges before returning to Monemvasia.

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Monemvasia

Eventually we said farewell to Monemvasia and in the company of Hie spent a few days pottering from port to port in the Argolic Gulf, which proved to be peaceful and picturesque, with reliable sailing breezes in the afternoon. We enjoyed visiting Yerica, Kiparissi and Sambatiki but found the more popular Plaka crowded with charter boats, noisy and oppressively hot, although we did enjoy a trip up to a monastery perched high above the town in a spectacular location, clinging to the edge of a cliff. We then sailed up to Napvlion on a breezy day and enjoyed one of the best sails of the season so far. We began with a northerly force 4 to 5 wind which gave us a lively beat up the Gulf and just as we thought the wind was going to die altogether, the afternoon sea breeze filled in from the south gusting up to force 6 at the head of the Gulf, giving us a cracking downwind sail into Napvlion. It made mooring in the gusty conditions a little challenging but we were eventually tied up on the town quay.

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The harbour at Yerica

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Mountain pass near Plaka

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Elonas Monastery near Plaka

Navplion is an important town in the history of Greece, being its capital for a brief period in the 19th century following the Greek War of Independence. It was also the scene of fierce fighting during that war as the Turks defended the town from three castles – two on hilltops above the town and one in the harbour entrance. The largest and most interesting, the Palimidi Fortress, is reached by a climb of 999 steps from the town. Following the advice of our guide book we went early and took lots of water for the forty minute climb and were glad we had because even at 10am it was swelteringly hot. However it was worth the effort as the castle was the best preserved we have visited in the area and the views from the top were stunning. We also enjoyed the busy but charming old town, more like an Italian than a Greek town in style, complete with reputedly the best Italian gelateria in Greece! There was also a lovely fruit and vegetable market on a Saturday.

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Navplion

However life on the town quay was less pleasant. There was constant traffic noise day and night, an unpleasant smell from sewage being pumped into the harbour and one evening we were nearly asphyxiated by diesel fumes from a pleasure boat running his engine for several hours. To cap it all, while we were out one day a departing charter yacht caught one of our solar panels with his stern as he left the quay, severely bending and damaging it. Luckily the charter company have indicated they will pay for a replacement panel and we are currently awaiting payment, largely thanks to a helpful statement from our Italian neighbour who witnessed the accident.

So we were pleased to leave Napvlion and after another enjoyable sail in a good force 4 to 5 breeze we headed for the peace of Koiladhia, a large natural anchorage in a bay off a small fishing port. It turned out to be one of our favourite places, quiet, not touristy, friendly and also with a resident population of turtles! We liked it so much we stayed for a lazy week before reluctantly heading into the busier Saronic Gulf, which we will cruise next before reaching the Corinth Canal and returning to the Ionian Islands via the Gulfs of Corinth and Patras.

We enjoyed our cruise of the southern Peloponnisos and the Argolic Gulf very much. The scenery was spectacular and the harbours picturesque and mostly not very busy. We enjoyed some lovely anchorages, good sailing, enjoyable company from David and Lesley on Hie and the many interesting places to visit ashore. The area is certain to become one of our favourite cruising areas.

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#19 2011-10-03 18:23:02

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Saronic Gulf to the Ionian Islands - August to September 2011

After a peaceful week in Koiladhia, we eventually forced ourselves to move on into the Saronic Gulf, our first port of call being the bustling Porto Kheli. The quays and anchorage near the town were packed with boats in early August but we managed to find a pleasant and quiet spot to anchor across the bay, with free daily entertainment provided by watching the adventures of the young clients of the nearby dinghy sailing school!

We decided not to take Caladh into the nearby island of Spetsai, having heard that its small harbour was very crowded making it difficult to find a berth in high season. Instead we took a small ferry across from the nearby town of Kosta, a bargain at 2 euros each way. Spetsai is a small picturesque island and we spent an agreeable if very hot day wandering around. One of the high points was visiting the museum established in the former home of Laskarina Bouboulina, a 19th century female sea captain and local heroine who lead a raid on the occupied castle at Navplion during the Greek War of Independence. She was sadly shot and died, not in battle but in a family dispute, but was posthumously made an Admiral and her image appeared on the drachma coin in pre-euro days.

From Porto Kheli we headed to Ermioni, a pleasant town with a large anchorage nearby and then on to Idhra, a small and very beautiful island. We had again been warned that the harbour at Idhra town was extremely crowded in summer with yachts rafted three out from the quay and that nearby Mandraki Bay was a better option. Here we practised anchoring with a long line ashore, with mixed results! The water was very deep and we had to drop our anchor in 20 metres and the first time it failed to bite and we had to have another go. This time it bit but we had dropped it rather too far out and ran out of anchor chain while still some way from the shore. However as it was well bitten in this time we decided to stay put and just put a very long line ashore! We were somewhat comforted that lots of other yachts had similar problems with the holding, including our friends David and Lesley on Hie and it was well into the afternoon before we were eventually settled and could enjoy a cooling swim and a beer.

Mandraki was a pleasant enough bay but not a peaceful spot due to the large number of water taxis buzzing in and out at high speed, creating much wash. However they enabled us to get into Idhra town easily to look around the pretty narrow streets running steeply up the hill behind the harbour, dotted with neat whitewashed houses. It was picture postcard Greece and consequently full of tourists but enjoyable to visit for a couple of hours.

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Idhra town

From Idhra we sailed to the final Saronic Gulf island we planned to visit, Poros, which is a busy yachting centre. We moored on the north quay, which proved not to be a very comfortable berth due to the severe surge caused by the large Hellenic Seaways ferry which came in at some speed several times a day on route to and from Piraeus. There were also problems for Lesley and David on Hie who were moored alongside us when a larger yacht tried to squeeze into a gap on their other side. Having tried and decided the gap was a bit too tight, the skipper went to leave but managed to catch the rope of Hie’s kedge anchor around his propeller with consequent mayhem. He eventually decided to buoy and cut the line but luckily another helpful Dutch neighbour recovered it and we were able to tie another line to it and secure Hie again. Thankfully, with some prompting over the next couple of days, the culprit paid towards the cost of a replacement anchor rope.

After a hectic couple of days we were glad to leave Poros and anchor in a nearby bay for some relative peace and relaxation. We then headed to Vathy, a small harbour on the west side of the Methana Peninsular, which was described in the Greek Waters Pilot as being well off the beaten track. This proved to be a little different from the reality as on a weekend in August it was packed to capacity, mainly with local boats out from Athens which is about 40 miles away, and we just managed to squeeze onto the tiny quay. A late night music bar added to the lack of peace and quiet but despite this we enjoyed the lively atmosphere for a couple of days.

From Vathy we sailed to Paleia Epidhavros to visit the famous amphitheatre a few miles inland, which Jo had visited on the Hampshire School’s Cruise in 1973. Epidhavros is easily reached by bus from the harbour and was well worth a visit, being reportedly the best preserved amphitheatre in Greece. Since Jo’s visit in the 1970’s quite extensive other ancient ruins including Asklepion’s sanctuary, an early hospital and a large athletic stadium have also been discovered on the site.

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Simon at Epidhavros

Back at the port of Paleia Epidhavros we had an interesting discussion with the owner of a local bar and hotel about the Greek economy. She reported that the number of both Greek and foreign tourists were 90% down from the previous year and that her hotel was almost empty. Greek people have little spare cash for holidays and we assume images of rioting and strikes in Athens, which in reality have little impact elsewhere in Greece, combined with the poor rate of exchange of the Euro, are deterring people from travelling to Greece.

In Epidhavros we said goodbye to Lesley and David on Hie after an enjoyable 6 weeks of cruising in company to head back through the Corinth Canal towards the Ionian Islands. After a few nights in the pleasant but very breezy anchorage at Korfos, we headed towards Corinth. On lifting our anchor we found we had picked up a large ball of fishing net on our chain which had to be cut off with a bread knife bought for such occasions!

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Removing fishing net from the anchor at Korfos

Korfos seemed to have its own micro-climate as we had blustery winds throughout the time we were there but within half a mile of motoring out of the bay, the wind disappeared and we had to motor up to the eastern entrance to the Corinth Canal. However about a mile off the wind got up again suddenly to a gusty force 6, which blew hard for much of the evening. However we anchored for the night, lying comfortably off a beach just north of the canal entrance, with the aim of going through the canal early the next morning.

We woke at 6.30am to a calm morning and were tied up on the waiting quay for the canal by 7.30am. It was rather tricky to come alongside as the high concrete quay had obviously been designed for much larger boats and Simon had to jump up a good metre to tie on our lines. We were later told by a friend that had we gone further along there are steps to help you! We went into the office and paid our 137 euro fee to transit the canal and were able to go through within an hour, following a large ferry. The impressive structure of the 19th century canal did not disappoint as we motored through the narrow canal with its huge, slightly crumbling walls towering some 50 metres above us. It took about 40 minutes to transit with the canal control tower on the VHF radio urging us to maximum speed to enable them to close the lifting bridges at either end of the canal.

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In the Corinth Canal

We emerged into the Gulf of Corinth to find a blustery force 5 to 6 wind blowing with strong katabatic gusts off the mountains and a lumpy sea, even though it was only just after 9am. However the wind kept coming and going as we headed west up the gulf and this was to be the pattern for the day – periods of calm when we had to motor and sudden periods of strong winds, especially around the headlands, when we had to reef down. The sails were up and down and the reefs in and out all day but by the time we were approaching our planned destination of Galaxhidi, about 40 miles up the gulf, it was gusting up to 30 knots – a good force 7. We had intended to anchor in a bay just south of Galaxhidi which is described in the pilot book as offering good all round shelter but we found it was untenable in the strong north-easterly winds. Eventually we decided to sail a further 5 miles up to Itea at the head of the bay in the hope of better shelter and that by the time we reached there, the wind may have eased. After beating up the bay with 2 reefs in the mainsail and a handkerchief of genoa out, we approached Itea with the wind still blowing hard but found a good spot to anchor off the beach for the night with another yacht, before a well deserved gin and tonic and collapsing into bed!

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Street scene in Galaxhidi

The next morning was calmer and we tied up in the large and quiet harbour for a few days. Itea is a nice town, friendly and not touristy, with good shops and from here we caught the bus to visit Delphi. This was one of the most spectacular ancient sites we had visited, mainly due to its stunning location clinging to the side of a mountain with views down to the sea. There is also a remarkably well preserved athletic stadium and in the museum, huge statues and treasures discovered more or less in tact on the site.

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Delphi

From Itea we headed to Trizonia, another unfinished “marina” on a small picturesque island – the only inhabited island in the gulf. It was a pleasant spot although the harbour seems to be home to a growing number of semi-abandoned yachts, including one sunk just off the quay. While here we had a huge thunderstorm with torrential rain, the first we had seen since early June! Throughout our time in the gulf we had strong gusty headwinds every day but eventually made it under the Rion Bridge at Patras and back to our home port of Messolonghi for a few days, before heading up to the Ionian Islands for September.

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Drying the nets at Port Atheni

We have spent September re-visiting some of our favourite spots on Meganisi, Ithaca, Cephalonia and Paxos, catching up with friends who were sailing in the area and spending time in Nidri to have our standing rigging replaced (for our non boaty readers that’s the stainless steel wire supporting the mast), as it is now over 10 years old. Generally the September weather has been excellent, remaining very hot and sunny for most of the month. However, while in Nidri a forecast storm blew through from the south, bringing thunder and lightening, rain and blustery winds for 24 hours. On the morning of 20 September we went to Lefkas town on the bus to do some shopping and were glad we were moored in the relative shelter of Nidri, as the boats moored on the town quay in Lefkas looked very uncomfortable and insecure in the strong southerly wind. Back on Nielsen’s pontoon in Nidri, it rained hard during the afternoon but seemed to be easing when around 6.30pm we could see a huge squall heading towards us from the direction of Vliho, sounding like a jet engine. We were hit by a huge gust, which tilted the pontoon at an alarming angle and by torrential rain. For half an hour there was some chaos and mayhem as boats dragged their anchors and slewed into the quay but thankfully our anchor and those of our immediate neighbours held and after a while it was calm again, although the pontoon had partially come adrift at the landward end. It looked like another squall could be heading our way from the direction of Lefkas so everyone worked hard laying out extra lines and a number of kedge anchors to give us all extra security but thankfully the squall passed further west and it remained calm overnight.

However the next day we learned that there had been terrible carnage at Vliho, a large circular bay just a mile to our south, where the tornado like wind was estimated to have been over 85 knots, causing severe but very localised damage. One man was sadly killed while trying to secure his boat on the quay and many boats were badly damaged in the anchorage and on the quay including several dismastings, in what is normally considered a very safe all year anchorage. In Maria’s boatyard about 40 yachts were blown over by the strength of the wind and the scene resembled the aftermath of a Caribbean hurricane. We have since read that this was probably caused by a “micro-burst”, a sudden downdraft of wind caused by the meeting of cold and warm temperatures during the storm. We certainly count ourselves lucky to have been in Nidri rather than in Vliho and to have come through this unscathed.

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Aftermath of the storm of 20 September 2011 at Vliho

As I write this we are enjoying a last few days in Sami on Cephalonia before heading back to Messolonghi to begin laying up the boat for the winter. We have enjoyed this season very much and look forward to discovering more of Greece next year.

Simon and Jo Bound

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#20 2012-06-25 20:12:12

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Messolonghi to the Gulf of Volos - May to June 2012

With our little white van loaded to full capacity with new and repaired gear for the boat, we left home on 17 April 2012 and drove down through a rather grey, cool and showery France, with even some snow falling as we approached the Mont Blanc Tunnel. The weather in northern Italy was sunnier and we spent a pleasant couple of days with Simon’s niece Emma near Milan before catching the ferry from Ancona to Patras. After a fairly relaxing, if expensive, crossing we reached the marina at Messolonghi on 23 April to find all was well with Caladh. Simon had been out for 10 days in March to undertake some of the annual maintenance so we were able to complete the painting and polishing over the next week and were re-launched on 30 April. The remaining jobs were then completed, including fitting 2 new solar panels and our new genoa, and we also enjoyed a sociable time with friends old and new who were also getting ready for the season.

We finally left Messolonghi on 9 May in company with Lesley and David on Hie, intending to sail together as far as the Saronic Gulf, before they headed towards Turkey and we sailed north to Evia and the Northern Sporades. After a rather bumpy passage under the Rion Bridge at Patras with headwinds gusting up to force 6, the wind eased and we enjoyed a relaxing sail for a while before reaching Trizonia just ahead of a torrential thunderstorm. Still, it washed the salt off the decks! The weather was to remain quite unsettled with another downpour en route to our next port of call at Andikiron, a harbour that was new to us. We managed to anchor stern to the very high quay and enjoyed a pleasant couple of days in the nice little town. However, with strong westerly winds forecast we decided we would have better shelter in Itea and motored up there early the next day, mooring alongside Derrick and Dianne in Kouros, also friends from Messolonghi.

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Simon at Andikiron

David had been feeling unwell for a while, with what he thought was bronchitis and on arrival in Itea, he and Lesley said they were walking up to the pharmacy for some advice and that was the last we saw of them! Later that afternoon we had a phone call from Lesley to say the pharmacist had sent them to the local hospital where an ECG had been taken and they believed David had suffered a slight heart attack some days earlier, possibly before we left Messolonghi. He was transferred to the main hospital in Patras for more tests and ultimately they decided he should return to England for surgery as soon as possible.

Patras is about 80 kilometres from Itea by road and Lesley and David had left with only the clothes they stood up in, with everything else on their boat. Julian and Liz from Golden Dawn, who were still in Messolonghi and had a car, kindly agreed to drive down to Itea to pick up the essentials Lesley and David needed before they could fly home and we offered to sail Hie back to Messolonghi so it could be laid up safely in the marina while they are at home. We had very strong westerly winds for some days but eventually they eased, enabling us to sail Hie back to the marina on 18 May, in company with Kouros who kindly sailed back with us. It was a long 60 mile trip but uneventful and we were safely tied up in Messolonghi by nightfall. After a busy couple of days laying the boat up for Lesley and David and visiting them in Patras, we were kindly offered a lift back to Itea by Willem, the service manager at the marina, together with his girlfriend Yvonne and dog Gina. It was an agreeable drive around the picturesque coast, including a short stop in the pretty and tiny port of Nafpaktos. We reached Caladh in the late afternoon to find everything was fine and we were later reassured to hear that Lesley and David had reached home safely, where they are now awaiting David’s treatment.

It was to be 3 more days before we had a weather window to sail further east to Kiato, about 10 miles from the Corinth Canal. Here we managed to secure a berth in the inner harbour with a lazy line to a mooring buoy with the help of a friendly local sailor. This was another new harbour for us and we enjoyed the bustling town for 2 nights before finally going through the Corinth Canal into the Aegean on Saturday 26 May. It was an enjoyable, stress free trip. We left Kiato around 7am and motored in a flat calm to arrive at the canal entrance by 8.45am, where we were lucky to be able to go straight through without waiting, following a large motor boat. With a favourable current of up to 2 knots we were out the other side by 9.30am, stopping on the waiting quay to pay our 138 euros and were on our way into the Aegean by 10am. We enjoyed a gentle sail down to the anchorage at Korfos, where we had a relaxing couple of nights, despite several heavy thunderstorms and some gusty, squally winds, topped off by a spectacular rainbow with a full arc over the bay.

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It isn’t always sunny in Greece!

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Stormy skies over Korfos

From Korfos we sailed a few miles down the coast to Palaia Epidavros to stock up on food and water and get Simon’s hair and beard cut and the following day headed for the island of Aegina. We decided to head for Perdika, which had been recommended as being much quieter than Aegina town. We managed to miss another thunderstorm which was skirting around the coast but by the time we reached Perdika there was a gusty force 5 wind blowing and we were struggling to reverse into a tight berth in the very small harbour when a local man beckoned us alongside the quay we had understood was reserved for the water boat which serves the island. However he and a local fisherman assured us it was OK for us to moor there, although he wanted a 2 euro tip for his help!

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The water boat at Perdika

Perdika is a lovely little harbour with an attractive, typically Greek village of whitewashed houses climbing up the hill above. Despite the persistent attentions of local stray dogs and cats, we enjoyed a quiet couple of days here until being unceremoniously evicted! About 10am there were shouts of “You must go now! You must go now!” then the honking of a boat’s horn as we saw the large water boat heading rapidly towards us! We slipped our lines quickly and motored a safe distance away, dropping our anchor in the bay to organise ourselves. The water boat was lying very low in the water and slowly began to rise as it disgorged its heavy cargo, but it looked like it could take some time. With a sunny day and good sailing breezes forecast we decided it was time to move on and had a lovely sail 25 miles across the Saronic Gulf to Sounion, where we anchored under the Temple of Poseidon, built on the hill top in the 4th century BC. The bay is picturesque with lovely (if somewhat bracing) clear waters in which to enjoy the first swim of the season, although it is somewhat blighted by the ugly hotel built there, the large number of charter yachts coming and going and the swell caused by ships and ferries sailing up and down the busy channel from Piraeus into the Aegean.

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The temple at Sounion

From here we sailed just around the corner into the Olympic Marina built for the 2004 Athens Olympics. It’s a handy stop for water, laundry, a good chandlery where we could replace our broken shower pump, a nice bar and taverna on site and excellent shopping a taxi ride away in nearby Lavrion. However, it’s obviously aimed at the gin palace and 4WD set from Athens and was a very expensive 55 euros a night and much too costly to be a suitable place to leave Caladh when we go home for 2 weeks in August (their quote was over 900 euros for just under 3 weeks!!). After a couple of nights of pampering ourselves we headed north towards Evia, the second largest island in Greece, taking the last of the forecast southerly breeze. It proved to be a rollicking sail – by lunchtime the wind had filled in to force 4 and gradually increased to be a good force 6 by late afternoon, as we sailed on reefed genoa and roared up the channel with the wind behind us. By the time we turned into Ormos Almiropotamou and hardened up to close the harbour it was gusting up to 32 knots and rather lively and we feared there would be no shelter but as we reached Panayia the wind finally eased and we were able to tie up alongside the quay with the help of a local fisherman who was cleaning his nets. We had a stroll round the village and a beer in a waterfront taverna and were beginning to settle in when the wind changed direction into the north-west, an ominous black cloud appeared over the hill opposite and our friendly local fisherman suggested we leave if we wanted a comfortable night! Reluctantly we took his advice and motored across the bay to an anchorage which would offer much better shelter from the north-west. It turned out to be a peaceful and lovely spot and we enjoyed 2 nights there in splendid isolation – we will have to return to Panayia another time.

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Sailing up the Evia channel

We then headed up to Karavos about 13 miles further north -  a bay of contrasts with the pleasant port of Karavos on the west side and the power station and cement works in the east. We moored stern to the sheltered quay alongside two other visiting yachts and settled down for a few days. Karavos is a small fishing harbour with a beach, a few tavernas and bars, a bakery and not much else but it’s only a 15 minute walk to the next town which boasts a Lidl and a Carrefour! It offers excellent shelter from strong northerly winds and other than the inevitable noisy music bar on a Saturday night, it provides a good safe harbour on the breezy Evia coast.

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Karavos – view to the west

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Karavos – view to the east

From here we sailed up to Khalkis, the capital of Evia, a bustling cosmopolitan town at the narrowest point between Evia and the mainland, crossed by a low bridge which opens at night to let yachts, fishing boats and commercial traffic through. We secured a berth in one of the small, friendly yacht clubs in Ormos Voukari, just south of the bridge (and indeed were able to reserve a berth for Caladh when we go home in August) and the next day went to explore the town, do some shopping and see the Port Police about transiting the bridge. The bridge opening hours can be somewhat erratic but it should open nightly from Monday to Friday, not at weekends, sometime between 10pm and 4am depending on the tide! We took our boat papers to the Port Police as requested after 3.30pm, along with the crews of several other yachts and paid our fee of 18.77 euros and were assured the bridge should open that night. In the evening we left the yacht club and anchored near the bridge to await the port authority’s call on VHF channel 12. Amazingly this came promptly at 10pm (apparently the bridge opens earlier on neap than spring tides) and by 11pm we were through the bridge and tied up on the lively north quay. After a noisy night (music bars until 2.30am and fishermen chatting from 4.30am) we left the following morning and motored in a flat calm to Kolpos Atlantis, an anchorage on the mainland side of the channel. It wasn’t beautiful (large industrial fish farm and motorway running by) but offered good shelter for the night.

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The bridge at Khalkis

We then crossed to Loutra Adhipsou, a spa town on the north-west coast of Evia where we were the only visiting yacht and secured a berth alongside in the small harbour. It was baking hot here with temperatures up to 38 degrees and no breeze so after clearing a blockage in the toilet inlet pipe, caused when a small fish unfortunately got sucked in, we spent most of the afternoon swimming off the nearby beach, where the sea was warmed by thermal springs and notably warmer than elsewhere. However in the evening and overnight the wind came into the north-west and freshened to make it swelly and uncomfortable in the harbour so we left the following morning, feeling we must return another time to explore more of the town.

With the north-westerly breeze blowing force 4-5 we had a good sail much of the way to Ak Kinaion where we negotiated the narrow channel at the north-west tip of Evia and then headed towards Orei, as the wind eased. We secured a berth on the north quay (the flotillas seem to mainly use the southern one) and planned to spend a few days here as the first meltemi of the season was forecast to bring strong north-easterly winds for much of the week. Orei proved to be another excellent harbour, sheltered and secure with nice neighbours, water and electricity on the quay, a diesel tanker, a reasonable range of shops in the small town, lots of waterfront tavernas and even the ultimate luxury, a laundry so we could get our towels and bedding washed. The town’s claim to fame is the life-size marble statue of a charging bull dating from the 4th century which local fishermen pulled out of the sea and is displayed in a glass cabinet near the harbour. We also hired a car for the day to explore some of the north of the island. We really enjoyed Evia – it has pleasant harbours, friendly and helpful people, attractive scenery and is also very quiet with few visiting yachts.

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The marble bull at Orei

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Evia

From Orei we crossed into the Gulf of Volos which offers a number of picturesque anchorages with good shelter from the meltemi. We are currently anchored in a breezy Ormos Vathoudi and hope the winds will ease as forecast by the weekend to enable us to cross to Skiathos and explore the Northern Sporades for the next few weeks.

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Sunset over the Gulf of Volos

Simon and Jo Bound

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#21 2012-09-01 08:47:10

Simon and Joanna Bound
Member
From: UK - Winter and Med - Summer
Registered: 2003-11-17
Posts: 35

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

The Northern Sporades - June to July 2012

We sailed from the Gulf of Volos to the Northern Sporades on 22 June. Our original intention had been to visit Skiathos, the most westerly and largest of the islands that form the Northern Sporades. However after a couple of hours motoring in the morning, the breeze filled in to a north easterly force 4 and increased further to force 5 giving us the perfect point of sail to reach the more easterly island of Skopelos in a single tack. We had an excellent sail, gradually reefing the genoa but as we closed the coast it became very gusty and lively for the final couple of miles and we would have benefitted from a reef in the mainsail as well! However we were soon safely in Ormos Panormou, a sheltered and picturesque bay, anchored with a long line ashore. It proved to be a pleasant and peaceful anchorage and we spent an enjoyable couple of days there, although we were rather harassed by wasps that seemed keen to build a nest in our bimini or in our basil plant!

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The harbour at Skopelos town

From here we sailed just a few miles north to the small port of Loutraki for water and provisions. It was very quiet on the visitor’s pontoon when we arrived but by the evening were surrounded by a small Sunsail flotilla and the following evening by a larger number of Sailing Holidays yachts. Early the next morning a heavy thunder storm passed through giving way to a much cooler morning and so we felt it was an ideal opportunity to walk up to the village of Glossa on the hill above, a very steep walk of about 45 minutes that left us puffed and sweating despite the relatively cool temperatures. Glossa is the second largest town on Skopelos and we had expected to find a better range of shops, maybe an ATM or somewhere to get a much needed haircut. However the village, although pretty with stunning views, seemed to lack a centre and we found it rather disappointing so after a sustaining Pitta Gyros (a good value and unhealthy Greek snack!), we walked back down to Loutraki for a much needed siesta. The following day we moved a few miles south to Elios, a recently developed harbour where there was a rumoured to be the only ATM on the island outside Skopelos town! As well as the ATM, it proved to be a delightful place with a reasonable range of shops and a very nice beach and we stayed for a few days while some forecast strong winds blew through. We took the opportunity to go to Skopelos town on the bus one day which was a picturesque journey along the coast and up through the mountains of this lovely, tree covered island. Skopelos town has a large harbour backed by typically Greek, picture postcard white houses clinging to a steep hill. It was a pleasant place to explore for a few hours and Jo even got her haircut for a bargain price of 9 Euro.

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Jo at Skopelos town

Before we caught the return bus back to Elios we had a drink in a waterfront taverna and were entertained by the antics of a group of Russian customers who seemed to be celebrating a birthday and were ordering copious quantities of champagne, caviar, vodka and a large bouquet of flowers for the birthday girl. Their lavish spending had the waiters jumping to attention! We have seen a noticeable increase in the number of boats and crews from eastern European countries this year, including many of the largest, most expensive motor boats, which is no doubt a sign of the changing economic order in the world.

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Street scene at Elios

After an enjoyable stay in Elios we were ready to seek out pastures new and headed further east to Nisos Alonnisos, the smallest of the inhabited islands in the Northern Sporades. After cruising up its east coast we opted to anchor in Ormos Tzorti, a picturesque bay with a small unspoilt beach and beautiful clear water for swimming. This proved to be one of our favourite anchorages to which we would return several times. From here we sailed to the most northerly island we would visit, Nisos Kira Panayia, one of the uninhabited islands that also make up the Northern Sporades. The anchorage at the northern tip of the island, Ormos Planitis is entered via a narrow entrance between the rocks only about 80 metres wide and 5 metres deep as you cross a sandbar. Although the anchorage is very sheltered once you are inside, the entrance is open to the prevailing northerly winds and this, combined with the shallow water makes for dangerous seas in strong winds which can make it impossible to enter or leave the bay. However we were blessed with calm weather and negotiated the narrow channel easily, spending a peaceful couple of nights here with only goats and a few other yachts for company in this wild and isolated spot.

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Caladh on the quay at Elios

From here we planned to visit another largely uninhabited island just to the south, Nisos Peristeri but didn’t find either of the anchorages we tried to our liking. Ormos Vasiliko was occupied to our surprise by two large commercial ships apparently awaiting repair at a nearby boatyard.  Ormos Peristera seemed peaceful and pleasant when we arrived but gradually filled up with other yachts in the afternoon including 3 Bulgarian flagged yachts that were determined to squeeze in so close that we had no room to swing to our anchor without being in danger of hitting them, so we returned to our preferred haven at Ormos Tzorti.

From here we went to Steni Vala, a tiny harbour just 3 miles up the coast on Alonnisos. We knew this was a popular spot but there were a few spaces left on the quay and we squeezed in next to a charter boat with an Austrian crew, dropping our kedge anchor and going bows to the quay due to the very shallow depths. On our other side was a space marked by yellow hatching and we soon found out what this was for when a large day trip boat began reversing into the narrow gap. It gave us a few nervous moments as they squeezed into the tight space, towering over us but their skipper was very careful and their visit passed without incident. Steni Vala was a charming place and Kostas and Angela who run the mini-market and café-bar were very welcoming and friendly, providing provisions, water and showers for visiting yachtsmen.  However, the harbour’s narrow location between two steep cliffs made it hot and airless and with July temperatures soaring to 40 degrees, one night was enough and we returned to Ormos Tzorti for a final night before heading west again. After a couple of nights in Elios, we headed for Skiathos, the final island we planned to visit and had a good sail in force 4 to 5 breezes.

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Steni Vala

It was now mid July and everywhere was becoming much busier and hotter but we managed to find a relatively quiet anchorage at Ormos Siferi, just over the headland from Skiathos town. Skiathos is the major base for charter boats in the area as well as a busy ferry port and resort and we had been warned it was very crowded and noisy so Ormos Siferi proved to be the ideal location for us, being able to walk into the town from the anchorage but having peace and quiet in the evenings once the holiday makers had left the beach. Skiathos town was certainly a culture shock after the quieter islands we had been visiting – lots of shops, traffic, people and the airport flight path right over the harbour! After 2 nights we were happy to head back to the Gulf of Volos but we enjoyed the Northern Sporades very much. They are beautiful islands, mostly unspoilt and we enjoyed some good sailing with fresh breezes and flat water. June is probably the best time to visit before it gets too busy and too hot and also before the strong meltemi winds set in during the late summer. We would certainly visit the islands again.

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The anchorage at Ormos Planitis

Once the afternoon sea breeze set in we enjoyed a lively sail from Skiathos back to the Gulf of Volos and headed for Kottes, which had been recommended to us. It didn’t disappoint – a tiny fishing harbour with just a couple of tavernas and we were the only visiting yacht that night, mooring alongside the quay and enjoying fresh fish from the Taverna Tseta, where the husband catches the fish and the wife cooks it. However it is open to the prevailing northerly winds and only secure in calm weather so with gale force winds forecast for the following night, we left the next morning and headed to Ormos Vathoudhi and picked up a mooring. The forecast winds did not really materialise here, just a few strong gusts in the night but nothing more. However we subsequently heard from Derrick and Dianne on Kouros that winds up to 50 knots had gusted through the bays on the south west coast of Skiathos (only 10 miles west as the crow flies) causing everyone a scary, sleepless night in the anchorages there. It was good to meet up with Kouros and Atlantico again and we spent an enjoyable couple of days together before we headed west and they continued east.

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Kottes Panorama – Caladh at Kottes

Whilst in Ormos Vathoudhi, we also had a watercolour of Caladh painted by Thierry, a French sailor and artist who paints pictures of yachts and also local Greek people and scenes. The pinting is a lovely souvenir which we will take home and enjoy over the cold winter months.

We then headed to Palaio Trikeri, a tiny island in the Gulf which we wanted to visit for a second time, having enjoyed our stay there on our way east a few weeks earlier. Here we unexpectedly met Paula and Francesco, Italian friends who we had moored alongside in Elios and we enjoyed seeing them again. However, we soon discovered that weekends here are not so peaceful as the bay gradually filled with boats coming from Volos for the weekend. Our new neighbours may have been celebrating something as when night fell they decorated their cockpit with flashing lights and began dancing to loud disco music! When requests to turn it down fell on deaf ears we moved to a quieter part of the anchorage in the dark and eventually had a peaceful night. However in the morning we found we were rather too close to the rocks for comfort and headed off to another bay in Ormos Ptelou. This didn’t prove overly peaceful either, alright by day but with a nightclub booming out into the early hours! However we were compensated by a cracking sail the following day, tacking through the Sunsail fleet back to Orei in a brisk wind, as we retraced our steps back towards Khalkis, where we left Caladh for 2 weeks in the yacht club while we returned home to England to see our families and catch some of the terrific London 2012 Olympics.

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Palaio Trikeri

We managed to negotiate the late evening opening of the bridge at Khalkis without problem to reach the yacht club in time to catch our flight home. There had been great confusion as to whether the bridge would open on the previous night as it had been a local holiday. The port police who check yacht papers and collect the fees for transiting the bridge had decided it would open that night and close the following night but had apparently not agreed this with the staff who open the bridge, who decided they would not open the bridge that night. All the yachts were standing by but at the last minute were told they would not be able to transit that night, much to everyone’s annoyance. Thankfully the bridge opened for us the following evening but was of course very busy with two days traffic and the resultant chaos and jostling for position. However we were safely through by midnight, anchoring in the south harbour for the night before securing our berth at the yacht club the following morning. After a very hot couple of days in temperatures up to 40 degrees we were looking forward to returning to England for some cooler weather!

We are now back in Khalkis waiting for the meltemi to ease over the next few days before heading back towards the Saronic Gulf for the remaining few weeks of the season and then returning to Messolonghi for the winter via the Corinth Canal.

Simon and Jo Bound

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#22 2013-07-02 16:44:48

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Registered: 2011-02-24
Posts: 320

Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Greece to Albania, Montenegro and Croatia - May and June 2013

We arrived back in Messolonghi on 18 April 2013 after an enjoyable but quite busy winter to find all well on Caladh. After a week of painting and polishing we were launched on Wednesday 24 April, only to be quickly lifted out again when it was discovered that water was leaking through the main seacock in the heads! We were left sitting in the trailer at the end of the day’s craning and that evening Simon was luckily able to re-seat and re-bed the seacock with Sikaflex so we could be successfully re-launched the following morning with no further leaks.

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Caladh ready for launching

We spent a further 2 weeks in Messolonghi getting the boat ready for the season, as well as enjoying the good social life and company of friends there.
The last weekend in April is a major event in Messolonghi with an annual commemoration of the siege of the town during the Greek War of Independence, marked by sombre and colourful parades attended by people from all over Greece, many in traditional costume. The following weekend was Easter in the Greek Orthodox Church and we enjoyed excellent spit roasted lamb at Dimitri’s taverna, the traditional meal Greek families cook on Easter Sunday. Several entertaining music nights took place and the weather was surprisingly hot and sunny for so early in the season with afternoon temperatures up to 30 degrees. We eventually set sail from the marina on Thursday 9 May.

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Part of the parade at Messolonghi

Our aim for this season is to head north through the Ionian Islands up to Corfu and then to visit Albania and Montenegro before spending most of the summer in Croatia, returning south to Messolonghi in October.

We spent a couple of night’s at anchor in Vathy on Ithaca and then a week in Vliho, Nidri and Spartohori while some strong winds blew through, before heading up through the Lefkas Canal on 19 May to Gaios on Paxos, another favourite spot. We luckily secured a sheltered berth on the north quay and spent 5 enjoyable days there waiting for further strong southerly winds to ease in the company of some very nice German neighbours. Simon assisted them in sorting out some small issues, one of which was to hit a starter motor with a hammer, much to their amusement! We were glad to be on the north quay as the yachts on the south quay off the town had a very uncomfortable night when gale force winds sent a large swell into the harbour, sufficient to flood several low lying areas of the quay.

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Paxos

We left Gaios on 24 May and had a lively sail to Platerias on the mainland, opposite Corfu – from now on we would be sailing to places Caladh had not visited before. After a quiet night on the quay, the following day we discovered that Platerias is used by charter companies for their weekly turnaround on a Saturday and we were soon wedged in with 3 Sailing Holidays flotillas and a number of other charter boats with lively young crews. A very noisy night looked on the cards so we left in the afternoon for a breezy but comfortable and peaceful anchorage across the bay where we were entertained by a large flock of goats being herded along the shore. The following day we had a good sail across to anchor in Petriti on the south west coast of Corfu, a pretty bay where we passed an enjoyable evening before heading up to Corfu Town. We managed to secure a berth in the spectacularly located Corfu Yacht Club right under the walls of the fort which guards the old town. We spent a pleasant 3 nights here exploring the town and doing various chores including laundry, shopping and haircuts! The only blot on the landscape was overnight rain brought on a southerly wind which left a thick layer of red dust straight off the Sahara all over our previously pristine decks! Luckily there was an adequate water supply here to enable us to get everything clean again but red dust appeared in fresh nooks and crannies for several days to come.

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Corfu Town Yacht Club

On our 32nd wedding anniversary on 30 May we set off for our first big adventure – Albania. As recommended by Les and Tina on Locomocean, we headed for Sarande, a seaside resort just 10 miles across the water from Corfu. Visiting yachts require a shipping agent and we were met on the quay by our agent Agim Zholi and his assistant Julia who helped us tie alongside the high quay in the front of the port authority building. Agim took our boat papers and passports and was back within 10 minutes having carried out all the necessary formalities on our behalf, including an Albanian stamp in our passports! It cost 50 euros for the first night and 10 euros for each subsequent night, including water, electricity, toilets and showers. We stayed for 4 nights and during this time 1 other yacht and 3 large motor boats also visited, one from Albania and the others from Australia, Ireland and the Isle of Man. The only downside of our visit was that the port is being extended to enable cruise ships to visit and the noisy, dusty work went on 12 hours a day, 7 days a week!

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Caladh at Sarande

Apart from that, we really enjoyed our visit. Sarande is not a beautiful place – a classic example of unplanned expansion with the bay surrounded by large, ugly hotels and apartment blocks, many unoccupied and/or unfinished. However the surrounding countryside was beautiful, the people friendly and welcoming and the cost of living seemed very cheap. We managed to arrange a guided tour with Demir, a local guide who had been recommended to us by Les and Tina. He teaches at the local university, speaks excellent English and is well informed about the history and culture of the area. He took us out in his old Mercedes (the car of choice for all Albanians!) and showed us a local castle and viewpoint, the beautiful Blue Eyed Spring and ancient Butrint, extensive ruins from the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods. We rounded our tour off with excellent mussels and local white wine at a seaside restaurant. In fact, eating out was one of the pleasures of Albania – we enjoyed excellent food and paid between 12 and 20 euros for a 2 course meal for two, including wine.

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The Blue Eyed Spring

We had considered visiting other ports in Albania but that would have meant checking out in the large port of Durres of which we had mixed reports from people who had visited, so, with a settled weather forecast we decided to head straight to Bar in Montenegro, about 150 miles north. We left Sarande at 6am on 3rd June and motored in calm winds but with a rather unexpected and unpleasant south westerly swell, until mid-afternoon when the wind filled in. The breeze freshened to force 4-5 from the south west and we enjoyed a lively but rolly downwind sail on the genoa, until the wind died in the evening. One other yacht, Grace, a Swedish Hallberg Rassy with a young family aboard was seen and we had a brief chat on the VHF as we passed close by them as they also headed north with us. An excellent beef stew that Jo had prepared earlier was consumed and we settled down to a hopefully peaceful night. However by 10.30pm we could see lightning all around which was to persist until dawn. The fork lightning was spectacular and we also had torrential downpours – all of which had not been forecast! Combined with avoiding a number of fishing boats and several large ferries leaving Durres, we were kept on our toes until first light. We reached Bar by 11am, after 29 hours – a good passage with an average speed of 5.2 knots. Earlier advice had said that it might be possible to go straight to the nearby marina to clear customs there rather than go to the large commercial harbour but we were unable to raise the harbour master on the VHF so reluctantly went on the customs quay. Grace was already there and the skipper explained to Simon the formalities that were required – visit the harbour master, go the bank for the cruising permit (46 euros), back to the harbour master, then to the customs office  and finally the port police! However the ever efficient skipper of Caladh accomplished these tasks in half an hour. Whilst this was going on a large Grimaldi Lines ship carrying cars came in, moored alongside and completely blocked our exit! We had no choice but to sit on the customs quay for five and a half hours whilst the ship loaded its cargo of cars, eventually leaving about 6pm enabling us to move round to a berth in the marina. We had much needed showers and a walk for a beer along the pleasant seafront in Bar – we did of course go to the bar in Bar!! A much deserved early night found us awake the next morning to a grey, rainy day with the surrounding mountains shrouded in mist and low cloud, reminding us of wet camping holidays in Switzerland. However it cleared by midday to  a sunny afternoon and although Bar was a nice enough town the marina was expensive at 57 euros a night, so we decided on a short trip north to Bigova, a picturesque anchorage off a small village. After a peaceful night there, we headed north into the highpoint of any cruise or holiday to Montenegro – the Gulf of Kotor. Montenegro is a small country  with only a 60 miles coast line, but the spectacular Gulf is recognised as the southern-most fjord in Europe and consists of 3 deep fingers surrounded by tree covered mountains and small towns and villages. The area has a military history and until quite recently had a number of prohibited areas but any signs remaining appeared quite deserted and abandoned. We anchored off Stradioti Island near Tivat for our first night. The small island had been a holiday island but was now Russian owned but seemingly abandoned, the small grass huts of the previous holiday development had become derelict and the terrain completely overgrown. However landing was forbidden and apparently several large guard dogs encourage a lack of trespassers! From here we headed for the town of Kotor.

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Gulf of Kotor

The fjord leading to Kotor offers breathtaking scenery with the ancient walled town at its head. It’s a popular tourist destination and much of the quay was taken up by cruise ships and huge motor boats. However, we secured a berth on a small visitors pontoon from where we were able to explore Kotor. This included climbing up to the Fort of St John high above the town, reached by a steep climb of an alleged 1,350 steps, taking about an hour to reach the highest point. Nonetheless, it was worth the effort for the spectacular views from the top. We were however somewhat fleeced by the market traders in the fruit and vegetable market on the quay – the variety and quality of the produce was excellent but they could spot a tourist a mile off and made up the inflated prices accordingly!

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Climbing the steps at Kotor

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The view from the top

Our one week sailing permit for Montenegro was almost up and with a helpful southerly force 4-5 breeze forecast for the following day, we checked out of Montenegro in Kotor and sailed back to anchor near Stradioti Island again, this time choosing a more sheltered anchorage in the lee of the adjacent Prevlaka Island, almost at the end of the runway of Tivat airport! In the morning we headed out of the Gulf of Kotor and north towards Croatia. Motoring out of the Gulf into open waters we encountered a large swell. The wind gradually increased and came dead astern, gusting up to 27 knots so we hastily took down the mainsail in very rough conditions and sailing on the genoa alone, bounced our way into Cavtat, the most southerly port of entry in Croatia, a passage of about 30 miles. We were lucky to be able to get straight onto the small customs quay, which can reportedly be very congested and within half an hour had completed the necessary paperwork and parted with 1855 kuna (about 250 euros) for a sailing permit and 3 months tourist tax.

Billabong, an Australian yacht we had met 2 or 3 times in Montenegro was on a mooring buoy in the harbour and the harbour master had advised that the buoys were free and we shouldn’t pay any money for them. We therefore picked up a mooring near Billabong and sheltered from the light rain that was falling for a couple of hours rest. Early in the evening 2 young men appeared in a small motor boat and told us the mooring was theirs and we must pay 150 kuna (about 20 euros) to stay overnight. We declined quoting the harbour master’s advice and an unpleasant altercation ensued when they tried to throw us off the mooring. We resisted and eventually they left. Simon telephoned the harbour master who reiterated that the buoys were free but the whole experience was extremely unsettling. Then another man rowed out in a wooden dinghy and said this was his mooring and he had a boat coming on to it and we must leave. He was less threatening but quite determined so at this point we gave up, as did Billabong who had the same experience. The water in the harbour was very deep for anchoring so we motored around the headland into the neighbouring bay of Tiha where we anchored alongside a number of other yachts both at anchor and on moorings. Our 2 young friends in their small motor boat were here trying to collect money from the moored boats. They left us alone but it was an unnerving experience and not a good introduction to Croatia, rather reinforcing its money grabbing image among some yachtsman. We have since met other yacht crews who were similarly threatened on the moorings at Cavtat and feel strongly that the harbour authorities there should be taking more effective action to tackle the problem.

We thankfully passed a peaceful night but decided not to stay any longer in Cavtat but head north to Dubrovnik, a passage of 20 miles. We had a lively beat up the coast, including tacking past the beautiful old town then up the Dubrovacka River to the ACI Marina where we treated ourselves to 2 nights to explore the ancient city. This was to be the beginning of a more positive experience of Croatia, of which we will tell more in a future posting.

Simon and Jo Bound

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#23 2013-08-13 09:02:31

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Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Croatia - June and July 2013

Dubrovnik was well worth a visit, the beautiful walled city having been restored following the Homeland War of the 1990’s. A regular bus service runs past the ACI marina into the City and we found it an excellent base, if rather expensive. We took a cable car up to a hill above the city from where there is an excellent view of Dubrovnik and the surrounding islands but the real high point of our visit was walking around the walls of the old city. We also went to an exhibition of war photography which gave a graphic insight into the Yugoslavian and Kosovan wars that had blighted this region relatively recently.

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Jo on the old city walls, Dubrovnik

After treating ourselves to 2 nights in the marina we went off in search of free anchorages! Our plan was to make our way north towards Split through the larger southern islands and if time permitted, also explore some of the smaller islands north of Split. We enjoyed the southern islands very much and in mid to late June we found they were not too busy. High points for us included Luka Polace in the national park on Mljet, a large, sheltered and picturesque anchorage where we stayed 3 nights and from where we took a boat trip on Lake Jezero to visit a monastery on the small island of St. Marie. From here we sailed to Skrivena Luka on the small island of Lastovo about 25 miles south west. This was also a national park but the entry fee was a very reasonable 25 kuna per person. It was a beautiful spot – a nice, sheltered anchorage and also a pontoon with lazy lines, water and electricity managed by a restaurant which enabled us to fill up with water and do our laundry! Our next stop was Uvala Rascisce on Korcula Island from where we took a bus into Korcula town, a mini Dubrovnik with a small walled town laced with tiny alleys on a peninsular overlooking the sea. The cathedral bell tower offered lovely views and we enjoyed an excellent Dalmatian platter for lunch on a shady terrace overlooking the sea but really it was too hot for sightseeing and we were glad to get back on board for a swim and a siesta!

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Korcula Town

Finding camping gas in Croatia has proved to be a bit of a challenge, as we had been warned. The problem seems to be that they don’t keep 2.5 or 3 kilo bottles in stock, even in marinas. Their bottles are much larger so we had to find somewhere they could refill our Greek bottles. We had been told this would be possible in the ACI marina in Korcula but when we tried on a Saturday morning the gas man could not be located! However when we got to the small port of Sucaraj on the south east corner of Hvar, the next island north (incidentally after a great sail up from Korcula in a westerly force 4-5 wind), the lady harbour master said we should be able to get gas in Makarska, a harbour across on the mainland, so we headed off there the following morning and went stern to the town quay with a lazy line. Makarska showed us a very different side of Croatia from the undeveloped bays we had visited so far being a busy resort catering for the package holiday market, mainly for visitors from the Balkan region. They were certainly packed like sardines on the popular beach! We successfully got our gas bottle refilled for a very reasonable 40 kuna including collection from and delivery back to the boat, found a Lidl to stock up on vital supplies (well, beer!) and Simon had his ears syringed, allegedly with a huge syringe! This cost 300 kuna and he felt it was money well spent as he felt his ears were much clearer, but the rest of his crew have seen no benefit in improved hearing and think he should ask for his money back! We feared a lively night on the town quay with noisy bars and clubs nearby but a huge thunderstorm started at 10.30pm and brought torrential rain, thunder and lightening, hail and squally winds and lasted until after midnight. This sent the holidaymakers running home for an early night, often dressed in black bin bags as improvised raincoats!

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Simon at Sucaraj

We reached Split on 26 June after a very blustery sail from the island of Brac, blasted by katabatic winds off the high mountains to the north. North west of Split is a large natural inlet sheltered by Otok Ciovo to the south and the mountains to the north and in the 12th to 14th centuries, it was to here where wealthy families from Split moved to live, building a series of castles along the shore both to enjoy the cooling breezes off the sea and the protection the mountains gave from a potential Ottoman invasion. These castles sit within 5 linked small towns each with a harbour and a castle collectively known as Kastela. The Adriatic pilot indicates that a yacht may be able to berth in one of the small harbours but in reality we found only Kastel Luksic has any realistic space to moor alongside (the other harbours being crowded with small local boats) and only if the wind is in the north east as the afternoon sea breeze from the west creates an unpleasant swell across the bay. When we arrived at Kastel Luksic strong north easterly winds were forecast overnight and after a secure night on the small quay we spent a pleasant day exploring the towns to the west, Kastel Novi and Kastel Stari. The castles are now largely derelict but the towns retain a fading charm and have the benefit of being well off the charter boat trail. However on our return to the boat the sea breeze had picked up from the south west and Caladh was rocking and rolling uncomfortably against the harbour wall in a nasty swell. It was time to move on and with a bit of help with casting off our lines from someone onshore, we managed to successfully reverse of the quay, despite being pinned on by the fresh breeze. We anchored off and once the afternoon breeze eased had a quiet and comfortable night.

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Kastela

The following day we sailed to Trogir and anchored in the cramped and shallow anchorage just west of the little island on which the town sits. Trogir is renowned for its beautiful medieval and renaissance buildings and its wide palm tree-lined quay and according to all the guidebooks “should not be missed”. We were rather disappointed in it, although may have chosen a bad day to visit as it was a Friday and the large ACI marina was packed with charter yachts on “turn-around” and the quay was jam packed with tourist boats bringing day-trippers. As a consequence, the tiny town was full of tourists but of course we weren’t in their number! The view of the town from the Kamerlengo Fortress was just like the pictures in the guidebooks and it afforded a good birds-eye view of the marina opposite where we watched crews battle their way in and out in the blustery conditions. The cathedral was beautiful and the rather hazardous climb up its bell tower was well worth it for the view. It was also a good place to shop with a large supermarket and fruit and vegetable market. But the anchorage was uncomfortable due to wash caused by the constant whizzing-by at speed from a myriad of small and large motorboats, ferries and water-taxi’s. It also affords a not very picturesque view of a large shipyard where an oil-rig was being maintained. This is not mentioned in the guide book! The one saving grace was that we had been expecting to pay for the privilege of dropping our anchor, but we must have been ashore when the man came to collect his money, and we managed to “escape” next morning without paying.

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Trogir

In search of some peace and quiet we spent the weekend in a pretty and breezy anchorage at Uvala Sicenica and then headed further up the mainland coast to Jadrtovac. Dozens of charter yachts were also heading north but Jadrtovac proved to be well off the beaten track and one of our favourite spots. It requires some careful pilotage to avoid the shoals in the approach and then we went under the road bridge with 20 metres clearance into a large inlet which then gets increasingly shallow to what is effectively an inland salt lake. We anchored in a small cove off the village and during the days we spent here both heading north and later on our return south, there were never more than two other boats at anchor overnight. The small village proved a sleepy back-water but had a small well-stocked shop (with an assistant called Joanna!), a dusty bar run by a local character who liked a chat in his very broken English and a fresh water tap by the beach where we could top up our water cans. Bliss indeed!

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Anchorage at Uvala Sicenica

We dragged ourselves away from this piece of paradise with great reluctance as we wanted to visit the Krka waterfalls up river from the city of Sibenik. In early July the falls were very busy but were as spectacular as we had been led to believe. A couple we’d met a few weeks before had recommended them saying they were more beautiful than anything they’d seen and that included waterfalls in New Zealand. The beauty arises from their height of nearly 50 metres, the number of falls (8) and their colour, a lovely vivid green effect created by the limestone over which the water tumbles. A very pleasant circular board-walk had been created up to the top of the falls and down the other side. We also took a relaxing water-taxi ride further up stream to the peaceful 15th century Franciscan monastery on an island in the wide river at Visovac. As well as visiting the falls we used the ACI marina at Skradin as a base from which to visit Sibenik by bus. The attractive old town has a very impressive cathedral containing beautiful stone carvings and Jo was able to get a good haircut for 10 euros! After a couple of further nights anchored in a peaceful but very windy anchorage in the river at Uvala Beretusa, south of Skradin, from where we managed to listen to Andy Murray’s victory at Wimbledon over the internet, we headed out to sea again to explore some of the islands further north.

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Krka Falls

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Franciscan Monastery Garden at Sibenik

We particularly liked Prvic Luka on the tiny island of Prvic, a nice village and harbour with mooring buoys and from here we had an excellent sail to windward 20 miles north to Uvala Hiljaca on Otok Zut (a rather crowded anchorage) and from there through the narrow entrance to the large natural harbour at Luka Telastica on Otok Dugi. This is another national park and mooring buoys were an expensive 200 kuna a night national park fee but it was a beautiful spot, fairly quiet with a choice of different locations for mooring. We stayed 2 nights at Krusevica from where we walked to Sali, a small port over the hill, an enjoyable if hot hour’s walk through surprisingly well cultivated countryside. After shopping, lunch and an ice-cream we headed back in the afternoon heat and were pleased to be stopped and offered a lift by Gorran, a gentleman with a magnificent long grey beard and hair and a golden retriever, who owns a simple restaurant in the bay at Krusevica where we had left our dinghy. As a small thank you we ate a simple, good quality meal in his restaurant that evening. The following day we changed our location to the mooring buoys at Mir to visit the salt lake there and enjoyed a pleasant walk around it in the evening, also climbing up to see the spectacular cliffs on the south coast of the island.

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Enjoying the afternoon sea breeze

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Caladh at Luka Telastica

By now it was mid July and as we had to be back on Hvar Island by 1 August where we were leaving the boat while we visit family in England, we decided this was as far north as we would go. On our return journey we revisited some favourite haunts and explored new ones. We particularly enjoyed Otok Solta, visiting Maslinica, Sesula and Livka, a beautiful unspoilt bay on the south east corner with crystal clear turquoise water that is not even mentioned in the Adriatic pilot! Sesula had been recommended for the Sismis restaurant high above the bay offering excellent food and lovely views and we wanted to treat ourselves to a meal there. We turned up about midday and were able to pick up an empty mooring. Within a few minutes a nicely spoken young Englishman on the neighbouring yacht, who looked and sounded as if he had stepped straight out of Cowes Yacht Haven said “Excuse me, have you heard of Yacht Week?” We hadn’t but he soon explained that this was a large regatta and 120 yachts and 1000 people were expected in Sesula that day for their last night party! Needless to say we left and found an alternative anchorage on Otok Veli Drevnik, returning another day to enjoy our meal in relative peace! Our next stop was at Bobovisce on Otok Brac, the island famous as the source of the stone used to build The White House in Washington, as well as Diocletian’s Palace in Split. Bobovisce is a pleasant harbour with excellent shelter from the strong north easterly wind that was blowing and we enjoyed an impromptu evening of guitar playing and singing Polish folk songs with our neighbours! This was our final port of call before heading to Vrboska on Hvar Island where we have booked a berth for August to enable us to go home and visit family in Hampshire, before returning to Greece for the winter.

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Impromptu sing-song with our Polish neighbours

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View of the southern islands from Hvar

So what did we think of Croatia? Well, we have in the main enjoyed it greatly despite our poor welcome in Cavtat. It’s a wonderful cruising area with a huge choice of lovely harbours, bays and anchorages. For those interested in cruising this region we are attaching an appendix to this posting with a full list of harbours and anchorages we visited, what we paid and a few comments on each.

The weather (so far) has been kind to us. Until recently it has not been as hot as Greece, particularly early in the season although now at the beginning of August the temperatures have crept up to over 35 degrees. The weather has been more changeable with regular rain and cooler periods, mainly due to thunderstorms. They are forecast, you can see them coming and you either get drenched or miss them! As a result the sea temperatures have been a bracing 21-24 degrees and Jo vows never to complain that Mill Rythe pool (maintained at 30 degrees) is cold again! The winds have been mostly light to moderate from force 3-5 with only occasional stronger winds of up to force 6, hence the sailing has been good with a reliable afternoon sea breeze. In season this region is busy with yachts and motor boats but because of the wide choice of harbours and anchorages it hasn’t been unpleasantly crowded, although it is noticeably busier now we are in to the August holiday period.

It’s undoubtedly much more expensive to sail here than in Greece due to the cost of the cruising permits and tourist tax (totalling 250 euros for our 3 month stay) and the cost of mooring in some places. Marina fees for our 10.3m yacht have been 65-70 euros per night, town quays between 20-40 euros (including lazy lines, water and electricity) and mooring buoys 20-25 euros per night. This does mean that mooring in considerably more organised with lazy lines and well trained marineros in most ports, significantly reducing the stress one can experience in busy Greek harbours where it’s more of a free for all! However (so far) it seems to be a myth that you will be routinely charged for anchoring. Except in the national parks, where an entry fee is charged, we have anchored for free everywhere we have been, amounting to 60% of the nights we have been here. We have made a positive effort to anchor as much as possible to keep costs down. Eating out is also more expensive than Greece although the quality of the food is usually better, albeit the same dishes appear everywhere. However other aspects of living are cheaper – food in the shops seems slightly below the cost in Greece or the UK. Our USB dongle and internet service from VIP the Croatian provider is half that of our Greek one from Cosmote (although not as reliable). Buying a cup of coffee, glass of beer or an ice-cream when out is also much cheaper. Overall we’ve spent more this season than we would have in Greece but not by a huge amount.

We would certainly recommend Croatia as a cruising destination for a season and would like to come here again, particularly to see more of the northern part of the country but feel that for us, it would be too expensive to keep a boat here permanently, although of course people do. Perhaps they have a larger budget than us! There are certainly appreciably fewer long term cruisers here than in other parts of the Mediterranean we have visited and that is no doubt due to the cost, although the area is very popular with Austrian and German boats and in early August, Italian boats are arriving in noticeably larger numbers.

So far our Croatian experience has been pretty positive. It is hard to believe that eighteen years ago the country had just signed the agreement to end the Homeland War with Serbia. To see how far they have come since, including their recent joining of the EU in July must make them very proud.

Simon and Jo Bound

Harbours and Anchorages in Croatia – June to July 2013
   
There are about 7.5 kuna to 1 euro so 150 kuna are worth about 20 euros. Some marinas charge in euros. All harbours and anchorages are in the Imray Adriatic Pilot 5th edition 2008 (which is now quite out of date) and/or 777 Harbours and Anchorages Eastern Adriatic 5th English Edition 2012. Thanks also to Lucy and David on In Tune for their very helpful information on Croatian anchorages.

Location
– Type
– Cost per night
– Comments

Uvala Tiha, Cavtat
– Anchored
– Free
– Southern port of entry to Croatia. Beware aggressive and bogus charging for mooring buoys and anchoring in Cavtat and Tiha.

ACI marina, Dubrovnik
– Marina
– 71 euros
– Excellent facilities. Good base to explore Dubrovnik.

Uvala Sunj, Otok Lopud
– Anchored
– Free
– Popular beach, anchorage crowded during the day, including day-trip boats. Swelly overnight during our stay.

Prozura, Otok Mljet
– Restaurant buoy
– Free but must eat in restaurant
– Pretty bay and good food.

Luka Polace, Otok Mljet
– Anchored
– Free
– No charge collected to anchor while we were there but 100 kuna per person charged when went ashore to visit national park. Nice, large sheltered anchorage.

Skrivena Luka, Otok Lastovo
– Anchored
– 25 kuna per person
– National park entry fee. Lovely bay.

Skrivena Luka, Otok Lastovo
– Pontoon by restaurant Porto Rosso
– 150 kuna
– Lazyline, water, electricity, laundry. Not obliged to eat in restaurant.

Uvala Rascice, Otok Korcula
– Anchored
– Free
– Bus to Korcula from here. Shops in nearby town.

Kneza, Otok Korcula
– Anchored
– Free
– Picturesque but breezy anchorage. Very clear water for swimming. Police in RIB checked our papers early on a Sunday morning here.

Sucaraj, Otok Hvar
– On town quay
– 200 kuna
– Alongside berth. Water and electricity 30 kuna extra. Nice village and harbour.

Makarska, on mainland
– On town quay
– 300 kuna
– Stern to with lazyline, water and electricity. Busy resort with all amenities including Lidl (15 minute walk).

Vela Luka, Otok Brac
– Anchored with line ashore
– Free
– In northern inlet. 2 restaurants and mooring buoys also available. Good shelter.

Kastel Luksic, on mainland
– Alongside quay
– Free
– No water or electricity. Only sheltered from north east.

Kastel Kambelovac, on mainland
– Anchored
– Free
– Some swell from westerly sea breezes in afternoons.

Trogir, on mainland
– Anchored
– Free
– Crowded, shallow (2m) and lots of wash. Charge for anchoring may be made. Good supermarket and market.

Uvala Sicenica, on mainland
– Anchored
– Free
– Nice bay, quiet but breezy

Jadrtovac, on mainland
– Anchored
– Free
– Very peaceful, quiet location. Small shop and bar ashore, water from tap on beach.

ACI marina, Skradin, Krka river
– Marina
– 66 euros
– Good base to explore Krka falls and Sibenik. Some shops in town.

Uvala Beretusa, Krka river
– Anchored
– Free
– Quiet. No facilities. Blustery winds in river.

Prvic Luka, Otok Prvic
– Mooring buoy
– 182 kuna
– Nice village and harbour. Sheltered. Small shop. Price includes taking water from quay.

Uvala Hiljaca, Otok Zut
– Anchored
– Free
– Busy and quite deep for anchoring. Some restaurant buoys also available.

Luka Telastica, Otok Dugi
– Mooring buoys
– 200 kuna
– National park. Large natural harbour with several choices of location for mooring.

Hramina, Otok Murter
– Marina
– 490 kuna
– Useful place for water, fuel, laundry, chandlery. Very good shops in town.

Otok Zmajan (unnamed bay on south coast)
– Anchored
– Free
– Lovely, uninhabited bay but completely wasp infested!

Rogoznica, on mainland
– Anchored east of island
– Free
– Choice of anchorages. Nice bay and good shops ashore.

Kastel Gomelica, on mainland
– Anchored
– Free
– Swelly in afternoon westerly sea breeze.

Maslinica, Otok Solta
– Marina
– 510 kuna
– New quay with lazy lines, water and electricity but inadequate toilets and showers for number of boats. Nice village with some shops.

Uvala Solinska, Otok Veli Drevnik
– Anchored
– Free
– Picturesque, fairly quiet bay. Quite deep. No amenities.

Uvala Sesula, Otok Solta
– Anchored with line ashore
– Free
– Very busy and popular anchorage. Restaurant buoys also available.

Livka, Otok Solta
– Anchored with line ashore
– Free
– Large bay but very deep. Beautiful water for swimming. No amenities.

Bobovisce, Otok Brac
– Mooring buoy with lazyline to shore
– 150 kuna
– Nice village. 2 mini-markets. Water from beach tap. Good shelter.

ACI marina, Vrboska, Otok Hvar
– Marina
– 890 kuna for monthly berth in August
– Good facilities. Attractive inlet and pleasant village with some shops. Transfer to Split airport via bus/ferry/bus.

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#24 2014-11-29 18:59:00

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Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Going Single – Messolonghi to Corfu -Spring 2014

During early  the spring it transpired that Jo needed a cataract operation but we had already bought our flights to Greece for April, so what to do? I had also booked a visit to IBA in Nidri to replace our engine mountings and repair a leaking gearbox oil seal before we learned of the operation date.

Our plan had been to re-visit Albania this year so we decided that once I had recommissioned the boat, I would take Caladh up to Corfu, singlehanded and pick Jo up there – from Corfu it’s only 20 miles up to Sarande in Albania, which we had visited the previous year. Picking Jo up in Corfu meant we would be able to crack on without wasting too much time early in the season.

My challenge was the single-handed bit!  I had only done this twice in our previous boat and that was just around Chichester harbour for a couple of hours. I did of course have Pontius our trusty auto-pilot to assist me. I’d sensibly watch the weather and hopefully all would be well. I arrived back in Messolonghi in mid-April and caught up with old friends again whilst getting Caladh ship-shape. David and Sue McGregor from Victoria Rose arrived a few days later and we managed to end up side by side on the marina pontoon for a few days. They were great company for me and we met up again several times during the season. I learnt that another yacht, Seafire would also be single-handing up to Nidri. David and Melody, who own this Bavaria, needed to get their van up country with their two elderly dogs. David would take Seafire on his own and Melody drive the van. David and Melody were also planning to cruise north of the Lefkas canal up to Corfu – what luck for me! Another Bavaria, Blue Elephant owned by Gavin and Mary with their trusty crew Emmet would also accompany us as far as Nidri. I spent around two weeks preparing Caladh for the season and enjoying the social life that the marina provides at the beginning (and end) of the season with several excellent music nights.

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Victorias in the Med - Messolonghi in May with Simon and Sue proudly showing off the newly cleaned up boats for the season !  Caladh and Victoria Rose


On a beautiful May morning my lazy lines were let go, I waved bye-bye to friends and along with Seafire and Blue Elephant, the three boats left Messolonghi heading for “Georges” on the island of Kalamos. We’d decided to take the route inside the little island of Oxia which Jo and I had not traversed before. However the passage plan had been made the previous day with waypoints punched in to the plotter – I was determined to stick to it! David on Seafire took a track well inside mine but I thought that Jo would never forgive me if I ran Caladh aground on the first day out!  We all made Kalamos without incident (well actually I didn’t let my kedge go early enough when mooring up – but that’s another story!). Once settled Gavin and Mary supplied the drinks on board Blue Elephant and David and I celebrated our first single handed trip. It was that afternoon that I got a taste for ouzo, the Greek equivalent of Ricard or Pastis. 

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Bavaria’s …….aaarrgghhh !!    Not really …Seafire in the foreground with Blue Elephant in front.  They appear to be sailing  –  a rare occurrence this year.


Single-handing effectively for the first time didn’t prove too onerous though – just plenty of planning beforehand and also thinking things through in advance and during the voyage. Pontius was a huge help – “click” on “Auto” and let him get on with it. Having the other two yachts around also eased the stress.

The next day we all prepared to move up to the Nidri area – about 20 miles. Both David and I had fitted wireless remote systems to our anchor winches enabling us to raise and lower the anchor from the cockpit. David let his lines go and proceeded out in the harbour only to stop about 40 metres out. He eventually managed to return to his berth where upon we untangled a huge mass of anchor chain from around the winch gypsy. This had never happened before apparently, but of course he had always been standing up by the anchor winch operating it so coped with any problems he saw immediately. It made me more cautious later when raising my own anchor.

The passage up to Nidri was uneventful – only a very short time sailing in the fickle breezes. After a night spent at anchor by myself in the large bay at Vliho, I prepared warps and fenders for my stern-to moor on the Nidri Marine pontoon where the engineers from IBA would replace the engine mountings. Typically there was a fairly brisk cross-wind and Caladh does not reverse particularly well, but after some stopping and starting I inched up to the pontoon with help from several people ashore, only to see one of those helpers fall in the water! He was fairly elderly but no harm was done although he didn’t appreciate his mid-morning swim. Apparently he didn’t want to break his fall with his hands so took the other option…..

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Caladh at anchor in Tranquill Bay (in season sometimes not so tranquill)


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Spring flowers in the hills above Nidri


I had a relaxing few days in Nidri catching up again with David and Melody and making use of the Athos Hotel swimming pool – quite cool in May. They introduced me to the taverna called Ola Kala or locally “Upside Down Georges” run by an ex-circus performer from Albania.  George produced some of the best meals out we ate during this season. Sadly D’artagnan (Darty), David and Melody’s’ elderly Alsatian had to be put down whilst I was there but Rugby their other dog, a black retriever  seemed to cope well with the loss and we enjoyed several walks in the surrounding hills – lovely and quiet, with wild flowers in abundance. I entertained the crew of Seafire on board Caladh and cooked an easy carbonara (well David cooked it actually) but he was surprised when I wanted to put eggs in the sauce. I told him that’s how it’s cooked in Italy – we sort of agreed to differ !     See below….

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With the work on Caladh completed successfully by IBA, stage two of the single handed trip saw Blue Elephant, Seafire and Caladh head up through the Lefkas canal bound for Corfu via the small island of Paxos.  Seafire had not travelled north of the canal before so it was all pastures new for them. Blue Elephant set off an hour ahead of Seafire and myself and after about eight hours we all arrived safely in Paxos. There was little wind although we did manage about 30 minutes of actual sailing! The north harbour in Paxos was quiet and I introduced David and Melody to the free water and electricity that can be found there. The crew of Blue Elephant entertained us again although they had moored on the south quay in the town. We spent several days in Paxos, ate one very expensive “gyros plate” – a Greek pita dish with fried shredded pork, yoghurt, tomato and chips. Normally they cost around two Euros. Our taverna gyros was considerably more – we should have looked at the price on the menu more closely but I guess we’d already drunk too much beer and wine beforehand!

Our plan saw us head to the southern end of Corfu, anchoring off the small town of Petriti. Jo and I had anchored for an overnight stop last season but had not gone ashore. It was relatively quiet for the time of year and we met up with Roger and Pam on Cap D’Or – they are “real” sailors having sailed around the world. You get the feeling that everyone in the Ionian either knows or has met them! Gavin and Mary from Blue Elephant introduced us all to an idyllic bar/taverna located in the trees not far from the anchorage. It was paradise to drink our beers under the shade surrounded by hammocks, lush vegetation including banana trees and tropical flowers. Needles to say several visits were made there. Victoria Rose appeared when I returned from one of these trips ashore and I caught up with David and his brother-in-law over a beer`. We were to meet again in Gouvia later in the month.

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Caladh and Victoria Rose – reunited and at anchor at Petriti on Corfu


Refreshed from our few days in Petriti, Seafire and Caladh sallied forth up to the colloquially named “airport bay” at Corfu town. David and Melody almost missed seeing a pod of dolphins close by until I radioed them up! On reaching our destination I put my anchor down and looking over the side noticed there was quite a lot of weed on the seabed. This is not good when trying to anchor as the anchor flukes have difficulty getting through it. However all was well on Caladh, I reversed back and dug in successfully. Conversely Seafire spent the next hour and ten minutes trying to anchor, only successfully doing so by laying out a kedge anchor, having flattened their batteries by the number of times they lowered and raised their bow anchor. How we laughed about it afterwards !

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Not quite sure how many times Seafire had tried to anchor…ha ha….


I had booked in to the Corfu Yacht Club located under the castle in Corfu town, from where I would pick up Joanna. We had been there last year so I knew the layout and what to expect. They have lazy-lines to moor up to so I didn’t need to worry about laying the bow anchor out and the subsequent reversing debacle that occasionally happens when doing this.

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View of Corfu Yacht Club – Mandraki Harbour looking north west
        

I spent a day cleaning up the boat, shopping and making the boat ready for the First Mates arrival. She arrived at the airport on the 27th May with the vision in her bad eye fully corrected. Next stop Sarande in Albania. My single-handed trip was excellent experience and I would not hesitate to recommend it ! A week after Jo arrived, Pontius our auto-pilot decided to go on strike – lucky for me he left it until I had a second crew member. I managed to get a replacement head for the auto-pilot control unit when we got back to the UK.

We had hoped to do some more extensive cruising in Albania having visited Sarande in 2013 and found the country fascinating. We crossed to Sarande but ongoing strong northerly winds scuppered our plans to cruise further north. We had hoped to sail about 20 miles up the coast to Porto Palermo and then on to the marina at Orikum, using this as a base for land based touring of northern Albania. However, Porto Palermo is in a military area and a German yacht we met in Sarande had been sent away late in the evening by the port police who told them they could not moor there. Without a stop at Porto Palermo, it is a 65 mile passage to Orikum and with northerly force 5-6 winds forecast for over a week, this wasn’t an inviting prospect so we reluctantly decided not to go further than Sarande. Unusually the Greek weather did not really settle until early July but this did not spoil our trip.
 

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Sarande, Albania – the bow of the gin palace is over the cockpit of the yacht !!!


The rest of the first half of our season was spent in the Ionian. We had six weeks before returning the Messolonghi to come back home during the hot season (!) However a relaxing time was had visiting old haunts in the Ionian and discovering some new ones. Anchored in Tranquill Bay at Nidri one morning, I noticed what appeared to be an outboard hanging from the anchor chain of Cap D'Or with Roger looking over the bow. As you can see -  it was an old two cylinder 8 hp Johnson- sadly un-repairable !  I dinghied over, helped untangle it and then dispose it to the shore.

Back on Caladh in early September found us returning to Paxos and slowly making our way back south, arriving in Messolonghi in mid-October and back to even more socialising again. During September we spent some weeks sailing with a lovely Norwegian couple Sjur and Ursula friends we had previously met in Messolonghi. Sjur plays the guitar somewhat better than I do but we play together at the Messolonghi music nights and we practiced accordingly. We attended a beach BBQ on Meganisi, sang with the band on a Friday evening at the Tree Bar in Nidri and ate, drank and were generally merry !   

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No one appeared willing to attempt a repair !!


We have only managed around five hours of actual sailing in September and October due to continual light winds so next season in 2015 our plan is to head east to the Aegean in search of some more wind.  There is no doubt we will find some due to the Meltemi that blows strongly from the north and an update will appear sometime next year. Time now to start saving for the expensive trip through the Corinth canal……

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#25 2015-07-31 19:38:28

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Re: CALADH's Log (V34)

Messolonghi to Northern Greece – May to July 2015

Annual maintenance at Messolonghi

We returned to Messolonghi on 20 April to find all well on Caladh. Simon had been out to begin the annual maintenance for 10 days in March when he made good progress despite very wet weather, so we were ready to launch the boat on 27 April. Prior to our return, we had been advised by the marina staff that anti-fouling and polishing are currently not permitted, as the marina was waiting for the necessary environmental licences to be issued. Obviously this was a real potential nuisance to all the berth holders who were trying to get their boats ready for launching. The Port Police were making fairly regular drives around the marina to warn anyone who was transgressing but it was clear this was largely being ignored. In common with many others, we got up at the crack of dawn two days running and had our anti-fouling completed before anyone appeared to stop us! However, it is an issue the marina needs to resolve as soon as possible to ensure it does not lose reputation and customers.

It’s always good to get the boat back in the water where she belongs and we spent a further couple of weeks in Messolonghi completing our annual maintenance and socialising with our many friends in the marina. One of our jobs was to replace the main and genoa halyards with new rope and our friend Steve kindly volunteered to go up the mast and thread the new halyards down the mast. As we were replacing the main and genoa halyards, we decided to use the spinnaker halyard to haul Steve up the mast. Bad decision! We do not fly a spinnaker so this halyard had not been used for some years. We had got Steve up as far as the spreaders when the halyard jammed hard and a look of panic appeared on everyone’s faces, especially Steve’s, as he was unable to be winched up or down. Luckily he had a spare line which he hastily tied on and we were able to bring him safely down to the ground for a calming coffee and a cigarette! It transpired that the block at the top of the mast through which the halyard passes had broken and caused the rope to jam. A replacement block was purchased and we were able to complete the job safely the next day, much to everyone’s relief.

We were finally ready to leave on 9 May, or so we thought! We awoke to a sunny, fine morning and slipped our lines and motored out of the marina about 8am. We got all of just under half a mile when the engine stopped and would not restart! We dropped anchor in the lagoon just off the marina entrance and Simon set about investigating the problem, which proved to be fuel starvation, which he thought was due to a broken lift pump. We carry a spare but it wasn’t going to be an easy job to complete at anchor so we phoned our friend, David who came out in his dinghy and towed us back into the marina. Luckily it was a flat calm morning so this was accomplished without further incident. Simon then changed the broken lift pump but found fuel was still not getting through. Further investigation found a blocked fuel line and primary filter, the tell-tale gunk showed that in addition to the broken lift pump, we also had the dreaded diesel bug! With assistance from (another) David, Simon cleared the blocked pipe, changed the filter, treated the fuel tank and got the engine going but a further inspection of the new primary filter showed the presence of lots more gunk and sludge. After a bit of debate over the next 24 hours, we decided that the only way to have complete peace of mind was to drain and clean the fuel tank. This was a messy, unpleasant and expensive job as we had to dispose of 90 litres of contaminated fuel but we felt it had to be done. The tank was then re-filled with 90 litres of clean fuel and after waiting a couple more days for a weather window we were finally ready for the off again on 13 May. With hindsight, we have been lucky not to experience this problem before and in future we will always treat our fuel against the diesel bug when we purchase it.

Our 2015 Cruise

After five enjoyable years based in Messolonghi, which proved to be a good centre from which to cruise the Adriatic and western Aegean and where we made many friends, we have reluctantly decided that it was time to move on to pastures new. We would like to explore northern Greece and the eastern Aegean, so this year have decided to go through the Corinth Canal and then via Evia and the Northern Sporades, go up to northern Greece. From there we will cruise south east through the islands of the Eastern Sporades towards the Dodecanese. Our current plan is to overwinter in Samos and then spend a season or two cruising the eastern Aegean.

Messolonghi to the Northern Sporades

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Leaving Messolonghi

We had followed this route in 2012, so were keen to progress as quickly as possible through old haunts until we reached new places. After leaving Messolonghi we motored as far as the Rion Bridge at Patras in light breezes and then the wind filled in and we were able to sail to Trizonia in a lively force 4-5 breeze. It had been forecast to blow from the west but this never materialised so we beat down to Trizonia, but it was good to be out on the water again.

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At Trizonia

We spent 3 nights in Trizonia with very strong westerly winds pinning us on the quay but when the wind eased, we sailed further down the gulf to Itea and then to Kiato, enjoying some good sailing, in company with a large pod of about 20 dolphins for a while. We thought all the ports we visited were much tidier and better maintained than three years ago and in early May there was plenty of space to moor. The inner harbour at Kiato, which had been crowded with local moorings when we last visited, was much quieter with plenty of space for visitors.

On Tuesday 19 May we got up early and transited the Corinth Canal, in company with just one other yacht. The cost of 135 euros had not increased since 2012 and in fact with a much improved exchange rate to the pound, was actually cheaper than 3 years ago. We found out that we were lucky to have been able to go through that day as the canal was normally closed on a Tuesday for maintenance but the other yacht had called in advance and been allowed to transit.

From the canal we decided to make the most of the good weather and do a fairly long passage down to Poros, a total of about 50 miles from Kiato. We motored all morning in light winds but around lunchtime the wind filled in and we had a very lively beat across the top of the Methana peninsular and into Poros in winds gusting up to 25 knots. We were pleased with Caladh’s performance and were anchored off Galatas, across from Poros by 6pm. Galatas is good for shopping, with a range of local shops and a Lidl within easy walking distance! However, the laundry we used in 2012 has since closed down and we had to take the ferry to Poros to do our laundry. Provisioning and laundry completed, we set off to Lavrion, a new harbour for us. After a long and rather dull motor in no wind, we moored up in the yacht basin in Lavrion.

Lavrion is a large commercial harbour as well as being the base for a large number of charter companies and during the week when their yachts are out on charter, it is possible to use one of their berths, most of which have lazy lines, water and electricity. It’s not a beautiful spot but the town is fairly pleasant and a good place for provisioning, with a large supermarket very near the quay and lots of tavernas in the old fish market. It was however quite expensive for Greece and the first place we had paid harbour dues since leaving Messolonghi, with port taxes of 19 euros a night and a charge of 9 euros for water and electricity from the charter company.

From Lavrion we had another long, windless motor to the island of Evia where we anchored behind the sandbar at the picturesque hamlet of Voufolo. This was a lovely, peaceful anchorage and in May we were one of only two visiting yachts at anchor. The next day we enjoyed a walk around the bay, disturbed only by a large brown snake slithering across the path, and then a tasty, relaxed  lunch at one of the two tavernas on the quayside. The following day we headed up to Khalkis and after a night at anchor below the castle, went onto the visitors’ pontoon in the yacht harbour. This has also been improved considerably since 2012, with lazy lines, water and electricity at each berth, a toilet and shower ashore and a part time marinero to assist with mooring, all for a very reasonable 8 euros for 2 nights. There is a new harbour office just inside the entrance to the commercial harbour and a short stay quay adjacent to it for yachts waiting to go through the bridge. However the fees for going through the bridge have doubled in 3 years to 35 euros. These are now collected by the new harbour office but it is still necessary to visit the Port Police on the afternoon you plan to go through the bridge and have your papers checked.

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Anchored at Voufolo

As usual, we planned our transit of the bridge to coincide with neap tides as the bridge is likely to open much earlier than on springs. We went through on 26 May at around 22.45 and moored on the north quay with about 5 other yachts. We managed to crash land and catch the bow on the quay but otherwise all went smoothly and the following morning, after the inevitable noisy night due to music from the quayside bars, we headed further north to Kolpos Atlantis on the mainland, where we anchored at Theologis. The weather forecast for the next couple of days was unsettled and there was a heavy downpour that evening. By the morning the wind had strengthened and come into the north west, making the anchorage uncomfortable so we weighed anchor and motor sailed about 4 miles across the blustery bay to Ormos Amirou, where we anchored off the south east of Nisos Gaidhoros, which offered excellent shelter from the north west. It isn’t the most picturesque place, with the motorway to the south and a fish factory to the north but it was a very peaceful and calm anchorage to shelter from the strong winds.

Once the weather improved, we headed north towards Orei, a favourite harbour on the north coast of Evia. In the morning we motored in light airs but after we rounded the sandy headland of Ak. Litheadha the wind got up and we were able to sail to Orei, inevitably to windward in a force 4-5 breeze. 

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An octopus in the harbour at Orei

It was a long sail though as there was no real making tack and it took us four hours hard work to eventually reach Orei and moor up stern to the quay. A local man now seems to help organise the berthing. Water and electricity is available by buying a card in the local supermarket. This costs 12 euros, so seems quite expensive, but can be used in any of the ports in Evia. We always enjoy Orei, which has a safe quay, a reasonable range of shops, a laundry and nice waterfront tavernas and bars. All it lacks is an ATM.

From Evia we headed up to the Northern Sporades and after anchoring overnight on Skiathos at Ormos Siferi, we sailed to Nea Klima on Skopelos, another favourite harbour. Initially we moored stern to the quay but it was forecast to be wet and windy for a few days, so the next morning when an alongside berth became available in a sheltered inner corner of the harbour, we moved there. When we have been to Nea Klima before, visiting yachts tended to go alongside early in the season when there is plenty of space, especially in the inner part of the harbour and this seemed to be the same this time. There are two or three day sailing companies from Skiathos who come in for a lunchtime stop most days but one of them was less than happy with the yachts moored alongside as he wanted to moor his yacht there to enable his passengers to disembark, even though there was plenty of room in the harbour for everyone. He began sounding off to one of the yachts in an angry and aggressive manor and a row ensued, which eventually resulted in the Port Police being called. We tried to keep a low profile but the police officer visited all the yachts, checked our papers and told all the yachts they had to moor up stern to the quay. We dutifully re-moored as requested but somehow, one of the yachts managed to lay their anchor over the anchor of the charter yacht which had forced us all to move. We were never sure whether this was accidental or not, but it caused more chaos when he came to leave! Eventually the charter yachts were gone and despite all the fuss they made, didn’t visit the harbour again for the remainder of our visit!

We sheltered from the weather at Nea Klima for several days but had a sociable time with good neighbours, mainly a mix of English and French yachts and before we eventually went our separate ways, the crews of 5 yachts went out for a very enjoyable bi-lingual meal at a local taverna. On 9 June, when we finally had a favourable weather forecast, we left early in the morning and sailed 50 miles north to Khalkidhiki, the three peninsulas in the north western corner of northern Greece. It had taken us just under 4 weeks to sail about 400 miles from Messolonghi to arrive in northern Greece, ready to explore pastures new.

Khalkidhiki and Thasos

The three peninsulas of Khalkidhiki are Kassandra, Sinthonia and Athos. Our first stop was at Nea Skioni, a fishing port and small resort on Kassandra, the most developed of the peninsulas. There was limited space for yachts stern to on the southern quay, the remainder of the harbour being busy with the fishing fleet, include very large trawlers. We had free water and electricity but it was quite noisy with the comings and goings of the fishing boats. However the town and beach were quite pleasant, with a good range of shops for provisioning. We stopped for two nights and then headed further east to Porto Koufo on the southern end of Sinthonia peninsular, which was a lovely anchorage. The Greek Waters Pilot advises that it is very deep for anchoring but we managed to tuck into the northern corner of the bay just off a small slipway, in about 6 metres of water. There was some space on the concrete quays but they are in poor condition and very high for yachts so didn’t look very inviting. Shelter and holding in the anchorage were good and the bay has a small village, a number of bars and tavernas and nice beaches. As we were coming to realise, land based tourism in the area is dominated by tourists from Eastern Europe, particularly Bulgaria, which is only a short drive from here.

After a few relaxing days in Porto Koufo we wanted to go to a larger town where we could re-provision and most importantly, get our laundry done. We decided to head north up Sinthonia to the port of Nea Marmaris and on arrival realised that the wave breaker protecting the harbour was in very poor condition and had broken up in several places, presumably due to winter storms. However it was still offering some protection to the harbour and there was space on the outside of the yacht pontoon. An unhelpful crosswind and very low pontoon made stern to mooring very difficult for us, so we decided to go bows to with our kedge anchor. However the harbour was very deep and we were dropping the anchor in about 12 metres. We had two attempts but could not get the anchor to hold so reluctantly decided to head across the bay to Porto Carras, a large French owned marina, where it would inevitably be expensive but offer a safe berth and a launderette! The cost was a staggering 76 euros a night (we haven’t paid that much anywhere since Croatia!) but we did get our huge pile of laundry done and were able to use the hourly ferry service into Nea Marmaris, which had a good range of shops. As we hadn’t actually paid for berthing anywhere since we left Lavrion, we treated ourselves to two nights there before heading south around Ak. Ampelos, the southern tip of Sinthonia and up the east coast, enjoying a good sail with the wind from astern for a change (probably for the first time since we left Messolonghi!)

The east coast of Sinthonia is lovely with lots of good anchorages and sandy beaches, particularly popular with campers. We spent a night anchored off a small bay in the north-west corner of Ormos Sikias, which was very nice but a bit rolly during the evening. Some windy, thundery weather was forecast so the following morning we sailed further north to anchor off Nisos Dhiaporos, a large anchorage which should offer excellent shelter in the enclosed bay between the island and the mainland. After our initial anchoring, our French neighbour helpfully warned us that we had anchored very near a large rock marked by a plastic bottle, which we had assumed was a lobster pot. We took his advice and re-anchored further away to give ourselves sufficient swinging room, only to have a large English catamaran drop anchor about a boat length from us – normally the French anchor very close to us! With winds up to force 7 forecast, we weren’t too thrilled with this, but he didn’t seem to see the problem. It’s the herding instinct we think! In the event we spent two days there without incident despite strong winds, thunderstorms and heavy rain. Beautiful though this area is, it certainly seems to rain more than southern Greece where we wouldn’t normally expect much rain during the summer months.

Once the weather improved, we moved to a lovely anchorage in a small sandy bay in Ormos Dhimitraki, with beautiful turquoise water. In the evening we walked ashore to get rid of three days accumulated garbage, walking through a disused campsite on the shore and up to the road. Normally on Greek roads you can find rubbish bins at regular intervals but not here! Eventually we walked for about 2 miles up to a much more main road before we found a bin……still it gave us some exercise!

Our next stop was Pirgardhikia, a small harbour towards the north of the peninsular. As in Nea Marmaris, we found the wave break, which doubled as the yacht pontoon, was in poor condition and breaking up in several places, although it was still possible to moor alongside. We initially moored on the outside of the pontoon but in the afternoon southerly sea breeze, it became increasingly uncomfortable so, following the example of a local yacht, we moved inside the northern end of the pontoon.

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On the pontoons at Pirgardhikia

This was much more comfortable, although we had to use our dinghy to go ashore as our section of the pontoon had broken away from the access walkway! We decided that in its present condition, the pontoon is only suitable for fair weather, which is a shame because the small town was a very friendly, pleasant place where we could have enjoyed a few days.

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The anchorage at Nisos Dhiaporos

From here we returned to Nisos Dhiaporos to enjoy it in the sunshine and then back to Ormos Sikias, from where we hoped to have favourable southerly winds to take us up to Thasos. Before we did that, we wanted to get some water and a few provisions. Places where water is available seem few and far between around here but we were able to take on water by jerry cans from a tap near one of the tavernas in Sikias village. The only shop was on a campsite on the other side of the bay, so we walked around there before eventually anchoring off the beach in the south west corner, where we hoped it would be less rolly than our last visit.

After a very peaceful night we got up at 6am for the 50 mile passage around Mount Athos and then north to Thasos. The mountain and peninsular of Mount Athos, which is the eastern most peninsular of Khalkidhiki, is a major centre for Greek Orthodox monasteries and operates as an independent monastic state.

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Monasteries at Mount Athos

Over 1600 monks live there in a number of remote monasteries and hermitages, isolated from the rest of the world. Men require a permit to visit and no women are allowed at all. Yachts with women on board must stay at least 1 mile off the coast!

As we left Ormos Sikias, the sun was rising behind Mount Athos, a beautiful sight.

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Sunrise at Mount Athos

As we crossed towards the southern tip of the peninsular, we were joined by a large group of dolphins, several of whom played in the bow wave for some time, always a magical experience. We then spent an interesting couple of hour’s monastery spotting through the binoculars as we rounded the large headland. Mount Athos reaches a height of over 2000 metres and large monasteries and tiny hermitages cling to its steep, rocky cliffs, some dating back several centuries. Having rounded the headland, we turned north towards Thasos, the most northerly Greek island and motored for several hours across a windless sea with an uncomfortable swell, the monotony broken for a while by a further visit from a large group of dolphins. We have seen more large groups of dolphins this season than in previous years, pointing to a healthy population in this area. Eventually the breeze filled in enough to enable us to sail slowly downwind for the last few miles, before reaching the island of Thasos around 1700.

We had hoped to moor in the southern port of Limenaria but this did not prove to be a good choice. The harbour was crowded with local moorings and boats and was in the process of major work to extend the quay. As a consequence there was almost no space to berth. We attempted to go stern to one of the available spaces but ran aground on rocky ballast extending out from the quay. In extricating ourselves from there, we nearly ran aground on a shallow patch in the centre of the harbour, about which the Greek Waters Pilot had warned us! Finally we asked someone on one of the local boats, who directed us into a very tight, shallow spot behind a fishing boat but we weren’t happy with either the amount of anchor chain we could get down or the environment on the rather grubby, busy quay, so decided to go elsewhere. There was no other nearby harbour but the forecast was calm overnight so we motored a few miles east and anchored off a small beach in Ormos Rosengremos. It was a bit rolly but fairly peaceful overnight and in the morning we headed further east to Aliki, a picturesque anchorage in a popular bay, where we were one of just three yachts at anchor, although the beach was busy with visitors.

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Anchorage at Aliki

Aliki has lovely water for swimming, an interesting archaeological site on the headland which makes a pleasant walk, several tavernas behind the beach and a very small mini-market. We had a good meal in one of the tavernas and with typical Greek hospitality, they kindly let us fill up all our jerry cans with water the next morning and offered to get us any shopping we needed from the nearby town.

From here we headed north to Port Thasos, the main town on the island. As we left Aliki, there was a surprisingly large swell making it very uncomfortable for a while but the wind filled in from the south to force 4-5 and we had a rollicking sail up the coast to Port Thasos.

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Ancient agora at Thasos

The new harbour is large with plenty of space to go alongside on the long quays, although water and electricity are only available at the innermost berths. The town is lively with a full range of amenities so we decided to use it as a base for our last week on board before laying up the boat while we are home for a few weeks in July and August. We hired a car for a couple of days to explore the island, which we had last visited about 25 years ago. Some of the busier resorts have developed quite a lot since then but much of the island is still relatively unspoilt, especially the mountain villages. We also enjoyed exploring Thasos town, which has an interesting archaeological museum, lovely ancient agora (the Roman town square) and an amphitheatre high above the town from which the views justify the climb! We enjoyed relaxing in friendly harbourside bars and tavernas and making new friends from other visiting yachts. It was a nice end to the first half of this summer’s cruise.

From Thasos we crossed to Nea Paramos on the mainland, a holiday resort about 6 miles south east of Kavala, for a final night at anchor before we had the boat lifted while we are back in England. We found the holding rather indifferent due to thick weed and it took 3 attempts and two changes of location to get the anchor to bite. We had booked storage ashore at Manitsas Marine, a small boatyard at Nea Paramos which had been recommended to us. The following morning we arrived as arranged at 9am to find a very large fishing trawler in the travel lift, waiting to be launched, so we dropped anchor nearby and waited our turn. It subsequently transpired it had gearbox trouble and it was 2pm before it was launched and we were lifted but it all went smoothly. The boatyard has a travel lift and the staff operating it were very efficient, helpful and friendly and we were soon lifted, washed off and chocked up in the yard. We were a bit surprised to be chocked up in traditional fashion with wooden poles rather than in a cradle, but they seem to take care that everything was secure.

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Caladh ashore at Manitsas Marine

We spent the next two days laying the boat up and packing in temperatures up to 40 degrees, which was pretty exhausting and we began to look forward to returning to an English summer. Sue, from Potos car hire on Thasos had been very helpful in booking us a taxi to the airport at Thessaloniki and this duly arrived on the morning of 8 July and took us speedily and efficiently to the airport.

The last two weeks of our cruise had coincided with the height of the latest Greek financial crisis. The banks were closed and high level negotiations were going on in Brussels to avert the collapse of the Greek economy. A fairly bleak picture was being painted in the media and it is undoubtedly a very difficult situation for Greece and her people. However, we hope it will not deter people from visiting this lovely country. Away from the major cities, everything remained calm and as tourists, we continued to be able to access our money through the ATM’s. Although no-one in shops or tavernas wanted to take credit or debit cards, only cash, otherwise our stay was unaffected. We hope that by the time we return to Greece on 1st September some resolution will have been achieved to help the Greek people and its economy move forward in a more positive way.

In September and October we plan to continue our cruise south through the Eastern Sporades and are very much looking forward to exploring these beautiful islands. Another update will follow in the winter.

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