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Friendships

September 25, 2018

I said in my previous post that being on a quayside was generally more sociable – it’s just easier to get chatting with people. Indeed, one lady I met this summer said she found being at anchor isolating and lonely. Well I think Duncan and I are quite content with our own company, (particularly if we have a Wi-fi signal,) but it is nice to get together with people and over the years we have made some very good friends in the boating community. We have caught up with several of these over the past week.

Mike and Sandy Wannell on the Sail Ionian quay at Vliho

We were expecting to meet up with Sandy and Mike when we reached Vliho because we had been texting one another. We met up earlier in the summer in Lakka on Paxos and had spent a couple of days together, and then later in Vliho before we set off around the Peloponnese. We originally met in Lakka several years ago, when Mike spotted the Cornish flag we fly and rowed over to check our credentials as Cornish people. Of course we failed the test dismally but they have generously overlooked our lack of authenticity and remained friends ever since. They live only a few miles from us in Cornwall and yet we seem to meet up more regularly in the summer in Greece! This time, once again, we went to Sami’s taverna, The Office, for a meal and we were looked after most magnificently by the delightful Tomas, who even provided anti-mosquito spray as we had failed to put any on before we left the boat!

Doug and Josie with Duncan

Last time we were in Vliho (D calls it Velcro Bay because we seem to be stuck with always coming back here,) we spotted another boat we recognised: Windsong. We spent our first winter living ‘next door’ to Windsong when we were in Barcelona. Josie was living alone on board most of the time because Doug was still working, and we became firm friends. Since then Doug has retired and they both live on board full time. We have met up several times over the years but we were disappointed in August that there never seemed to be anyone on board. We were therefore delighted to see Windsong here again when we returned and this time we managed to make contact and get together. It was really great to see them both and catch up on all the news.

We met Corinne and Claudio a year later when we spent a winter in Gouvia marina on Corfu, (not recommended – far too big and impersonal). Stupidly, we remained on ‘Good morning’ terms for weeks but finally I suggested that they might like to come for a drink and we promptly became firm friends. I mentioned in a previous post that we passed each other, going in opposite directions in the Saronic last month and we agreed then to try and get together in the Ionian. (They return to Corfu every winter, where they now have an apartment). We therefore stayed on an extra day in Vliho when we heard that they would arrive the next evening. They came and had a meal aboard Rampage and the following morning, (still feeling a little jaded) we went for a coffee aboard Levitha.

Corinne and Claudio aboard Levitha

We then headed off to our old favourite, Abelike Bay on Meganisi, because it is stunningly beautiful and the water is clean enough to swim safely. As we entered the bay, D said he thought he spotted another boat we recognised on the other side of the headland. Accordingly, I emailed Mr Whiskers and sure enough, they were only a few hundred metres away. What a great reunion! We went round later that day and had a great time, as full of laughter and funny stories as always when we get together. We first met Clive and Ruth several years ago on Kastos, invited them for a drink and had the most riotous evening! Rarely have I laughed so much. It’s extraordinary how with some people, you just hit it off immediately whilst other friendships grow and mature gradually.

Duncan towing Clive and Ruth back to Mr Whiskers

We are now back in Vliho yet again, after our brief sojourn in Abelike, because strong winds are forecast and this bay is usually well protected with good holding and plenty of space. In fact it’s an ideal bolt hole most of the time except when a freak tornado hits, as happened in 2009. (You can see video footage of the devastation on YouTube.) Anyway, I noticed last night that Windsong had gone but Levitha, to our surprise was still at anchor here. This morning however she too has left. Mike and Sandy’s boat, Eos is back on the Sail Ionian quay but they leave today as well. Ruth and Clive left us to go straight to Levkas marina so clearly there is only so much of the Byrnes that any of them can cope with!

But seriously, I have been wondering what it is about these friendships that makes them so special and enduring and I think it is a shared passion. Many friends we make simply through circumstance – we work together or we are neighbours, or our children are friends. Some of these friendships survive when we move on, but many fade because we have little else in common. Those of us who sail have shared experiences, problems and concerns. Put two boaty people together and inevitably the conversation will come round to the weather, water and power supplies, and where we have been. You have to be flexible as plans often have to be revised and you have to be resilient as things continually go wrong or break. You also also have been content to live a much simpler life without many of the luxuries that many people take for granted such as dishwashers and super-fast broadband. Most of us don’t even have a washing machine on board. What we do have is adventure, and an escape from the stresses and constraints of land-based living because life aboard is lived at a gentler pace. There is time to admire the sunset or read a book or enjoy spending time with friends. You start to value this beautiful world and there is time to think about what matters to you, what is truly important.

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On the Quay

September 23, 2018

Rampage all alone on the quay in Monemvasia – a rare sight!

Please note: you will have seen most of these blog photos before, for which I apologise!

Recently we have spent far more time than I would like moored to a quayside. Now many people would rather do this than anchor and they have some very valid reasons.

Firstly, a lot of people feel more secure tied to a quay, whether they have dropped an anchor or picked up lazy lines to hold them in position. Secondly, there is often water available on a pontoon or quayside. This gives you the luxury of being able to wash up in more than half an inch of water and being able to use hair conditioner, not just shampoo! (Many people will also do laundry if there is water available but I make it a policy to avoid washing by hand if I possibly can; I’d much rather pay to use a machine.) Sometimes there is mains electricity on the quay too, which gives the batteries a good charge and allows the use of the immersion, electric kettle etc etc. Of course shopping and eating out are simpler if you are on a quay as you don’t have to scramble in and out of a dinghy. Finally, it is more sociable as you are far more inclined to get chatting to other people on the quayside.

So why do we prefer to anchor? Well firstly, it is much simpler. There is no rushing round putting out fenders and getting shorelines set up as you approach. You don’t have to worry about whether anyone will offer to take your lines for you or whether one or other of you will have to scramble ashore. This is particularly difficult when you have never been into a particular harbour or quay before. Will we have to jump down onto the quay? Worse still, perhaps we’ll have to try to climb up onto a high wall, and at the same time avoid bringing Rampage in too close and damaging her?

Climbing off over the bow is always more tricky, but especially when you first come in.

If you’re anchoring, all you have to do is position the boat correctly, let out sufficient chain for the depth and make sure it is holding. On that score, our Rocna anchor is particularly reliable as it nearly always digs straight in and the roll bar across the top means that if it should come out it will almost invariably reset itself.

Once in, your worries are not over, however. Anyone who has moored out here will tell you about the fun and games of crossed anchor chains and boats pulling other people’s anchors out. If this happens, most people seem to stand and shout and gesticulate wildly, but have no clue how to resolve the muddle. D has gone out in the dinghy countless times to show people what to do. It’s tedious. Another worry is that boats will try to squeeze in beside you, into a space that is far too small, gouging great scratches in Rampage’s gel coat in the process, despite her fenders. If your neighbour is a large motor cruiser there also is a fair chance that they will want to run their generator all night and blast noxious fumes in your direction.

Another important benefit of anchoring as far as I am concerned, is that it avoids the risk of rodents, feral cats or any other unwanted visitors coming aboard. Having had a rat on Rampage on one occasion, I have no desire to repeat the experience.

Being at anchor also provides far more privacy. When we have to moor, we nearly always come in stern-to because it’s easier to get on and off over the stern. However our cockpit is in the stern so we cannot eat a meal or even read a book without being stared at by passers-by. Some people must think we are blind and deaf as they stand at the back of the boat openly discussing her merits as if we were invisible. It is very tempting to scratch our armpits (or worse) as though we were chimps in the zoo. Of course sometimes people are very pleasant and you can have a really nice chat but usually people just stare.

In a marina there is really very little privacy

Another factor is that being able to anchor vastly increases the number of places that you can go and an anchorage is far more likely to be (though not invariably) quieter at night and more peaceful by day.

Finally, and very importantly in this part of the world, being at anchor tends to be cooler. The boat will always swing to face into the wind so any available breeze will come in through the front hatches and down the length of the boat. Often on a quayside there is a wide expanse of concrete which reflects the heat and makes it feel even hotter. More significantly you cannot simply jump in the water to cool down as it is dangerous and the water is almost always polluted. Being able to swim off the back of the boat is the biggest factor for me, in favour of anchoring.

Rampage at anchor in Navarino Bay

So why have we been on quaysides recently? Well, as we made our way north from the Peloponnese we had little option. There are few bolt holes on the west coast of the Peloponnese once you leave Navarino so from Kyparassia harbour we went to Katakolon and then on to Poros, near the southern end of Kefalonia. It is possible to anchor off the beach at Poros but it is very exposed so we went into the harbour and sweltered. We took the opportunity while we were there to empty, flush out and refill our water tanks. Our previous fill was perfectly potable but had a really horrid taste so we had been obliged to use bottled water even for tea and coffee. It has made us think very seriously about fitting a water filter.

En route to Poros we became aware of a foul smell down below. Now I am fairly paranoid about smells on the boat and immediately feared that sewage had somehow leaked into the bilges – but no, they were fine. D eventually had a brainwave and lifted the locker lid to our battery bank. Two of our lead acid batteries had fried, were leaking acid and threatening to explode! We had a pause, mid-sea, while he disconnected them and sorted out the electrics so we could continue to Poros. Unfortunately there was no possibility of replacing them in Poros and our only option was to go from there to Nidri.

There we met up with our friends, Mike and Sandy Wannell, who were moored on the Sail Ionian quay in Vliho bay. They keep their car at Vliho when they are cruising and when they heard we were about to buy new batteries, Mike offered to collect them for us. This was fantastic as it avoided putting the enormously heavy batteries in our dinghy, so once again we put out fenders and went in next to them on the quay.

Now, finally, we are back at anchor in Abelike bay, and since our time out here in Greece is rapidly coming to an end, I shall make the most of it, leave you now and go for a swim!

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Following in Frodo’s Footsteps

September 14, 2018

At the gates to Moria

As we walked along the shores of the lagoon, there was an occasional plopping noise followed by a widening circle of ripples across the oily-smooth surface of the water. There were unseen creatures in the depths! The shallows at our feet were brownish-green and full of weed and on our other side the tall cliffs, topped by a ruined fortress, loomed over us in the grey of the early morning.

Footpath along the shoreline of the lagoon

Elaborate spiders’ webs threaded between the reeds, and despite the tiny mayflies that danced in the undergrowth, there was a profound stillness. As the sun rose behind the eastern hills, there was an eyrie beauty; it felt like the approach to Mines of Moria. When an egret suddenly emerged from the reeds in a great fluster, I instinctively jumped.

A fortress at the summit of the ridge line.

We were not however, seeking to hurl a magical ring into fiery depths but, rather more prosaically, to look for a geocache hidden in the dunes of the next bay. The bay turned out to be a picture-book-perfect semicircle, bordered by fine sand.

A near-perfect bay with the lagoon behind

Two yachts lay at anchor, rolling slightly as the surge made its way in through the narrow entrance, so we were glad that we ourselves had chosen to stay in Navarino Bay. It was an easy walk as temperatures have started to drop here now, especially early morning and at night. We had also opted for the path at the base of the cliffs rather than the one that ran along the ridge line although had we done this, the views would undoubtedly have been very fine. This was a walk with a purpose however, and we couldn’t afford to take too long because we needed to move on north to Kyparissia as soon as we got back.

Going down was a lot easier than climbing the dunes

Having struggled up the dunes, we found the cache without any trouble and duly signed the logbook. By now we had left Moria in the mists of early morning. The sun was up and there were other walkers about. I was much struck by the sign that confronted us about two thirds of the way back along the

We decided to take our chance and press on, despite this dire warning since the only alternatives would have taken hours. We disturbed the egret again as we made our way back to the dinghy. Clearly he had found a prime spot where fish gather to feed.

The memorial to the RN sailors who died at the Battle of Navarino

This was our third cache in three days – not bad for Greece where they are much thinner on the ground than in the U.K. and Northern Europe. We like geocaching in Greece because they are generally located at beauty spots or places of interest that we might otherwise not discover. In addition they are much more likely to be dry, unmolested and remote, so the risk of being overlooked is generally negligible. This was the case the morning before, when our hunt for a cache led us to the islet in the middle of Navarino Bay. Here there is a memorial to the Royal Navy sailors who died during the great sea battle in 1827, assisting the Greeks in their struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire. The island also proved to be a favoured roosting spot for sea birds – not something I’ve seen much in Greece. We disturbed them too.

Rampage at anchor at the northern end of Navarino Bay

The third cache we found is hidden on the shores of the bay and I suddenly decided to go off in the dinghy just before the light went on our second evening. Again, I found it easily enough but was ferociously bitten by mosquitoes for my pains. They were particularly bad at the northern end of the bay where we were anchored, presumably because of the lagoon the other side of the sandbar. We also had trouble with the mayflies that descended in vast hordes on Rampage after dark on our first evening, attracted by the glow from our cockpit lights. Next morning I had to wash the whole of the cockpit and sugar-scoop that were littered with dead bodies. For this reason, we decided not to sit out in the cockpit after dark but retreated below, protected by our mosquito nets.

Lots of dead bodies on the sugar-scoop in the morning

We are now en route for Katakolon, having spent last night in Kyparissia. There was some sort of celebration going on in the town last night but we couldn’t establish what it was all about. The town is quite attractive, as is the castle above, but we’ve been there before and we were quite tired yesterday evening, having had a full day sailing from Navarino. Since there was a taverna in the harbour, we didn’t bother to flog up the hill to investigate further. Frankly the harbour is fairly unremarkable and didn’t really warrant a photo.

More fun is the loaf of bread that D has baked while I have been writing this blog. This was necessary because the shop in the harbour was closed this morning, so possibly last night’s shenanigans were a prelude to some sort of local holiday. Anyway today, as you may have guessed, we are not sailing but motoring in a dead straight line across a flat calm sea, but fear not, we have been taking turns on watch!

Bread making on the move!

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Monemvasia and beyond.

September 9, 2018

Leaving Monemvasia yesterday morning

We stayed a week in Monemvasia – not the first time we have done this, as the winds in this area can be unpredictable. The usual weather pattern each day was calm in the morning but increasingly strong winds building through the afternoon and evening. Land heats faster than water, the warm air rises and draws in cooler air behind it, resulting in on-shore breeze. As the sun goes down, the reverse process takes place, the land cooling more quickly than the water so the winds blow off-shore. Simple physics. We were unfazed by this as we were secure and well protected, though we did tie down the bimini sides to stop them flapping and driving us insane.

En route to Cape Maleas

However it was not this that kept us put for so many days but the weather on the western side of the Peloponnese, which has been quite unfriendly and we had no desire to run into it and get stuck somewhere remote. We finally departed early yesterday morning and initially all went well. In fact we had to motor through flat calm seas as far as Cape Maleas, the most southerly point on the mainland. However almost as soon as we rounded the cape we ran into F4 winds right on the nose. We were heading for Porto Kayio near the southern tip of the middle finger of the Peloponnese and calculated that tacking into the wind meant that we would not arrive until after 9p.m. by which time it would be very dark. So, as is often the way, we had a rethink and change of plan. Once round the island of Elafanisos, we headed north to the huge bay at Plitra. This proved a good move because the swell was building all the time and after several hours we were both quite weary and relieved to reach the relatively calm waters of the bay. Even so, the swell crept in and promised us a very rock ‘n rolly night so we tucked up as close inshore as possible, failing to take note of the party preparations going on ashore. So instead we had rock ‘n roll of another sort until some time in the early hours. We seem to be fated this year.

Sunrise this morning leaving Plitra

We had a fairly quiet time in Monemvasia, as the temperatures were well over 30c every day so we weren’t inclined to do much, other than swim. We did invite the guy from the next boat round for a drink one evening, quite forgetting that Americans eat a lot earlier than we do. He came round at about 7:30p.m. and stayed for three hours of so. He was a lovely guy, sailing alone for the first time and very interesting, so we had a great evening. However, after he’d gone, neither of us could be bothered to cook an evening meal. We had yogurts and went to bed!

The old walled town of Monemvasia

Another evening we strolled up to the old walled town and another day we walked up there in the early morning to take photos and treated ourselves to breakfast amid the delightful surroundings of a charming little square.

The walled town is an irresistible mix of some ruined and many sensitively-restored buildings. The mellow stone, red-tiled roofs and white churches are linked by narrow cobbled streets that meander up and around the hillside in a bewildering maze. Flowers sprawl over walls or grow in huge earthenware pots and everywhere there is the smell of cooking from the many restaurants and tavernas. There are also a huge number of cats, living a contented, safe life away from any traffic and amid an abundance of titbits from the diners.

Cats …

Monemvasia has much to recommend it. Not only are there some reasonable shops and restaurants, but there is no charge to stay on the southern quay and there is also free water available, though not mains electricity. There is also free Wi-fi, albeit, not a terrifically strong signal. Finally, and perhaps best of all, there are large turtles living in the harbour, presumably attracted by the regular comings and goings of the fishing boats. One day as I stood in the cockpit, one swam right past the boat – a wonderful photo opportunity. Another time I met one as I was snorkelling the other side of the sea wall. Close enough to touch, she/he was completely uninterested in me and allowed me to marvel at its fluid movements and grace as it gently drifted through the water.

Hanging round the fishing boats

Photo call past Rampage

Now we are in Porto Kayio – only a day later than scheduled. We rose early this morning and made the trip from Plitra in less than four hours. It is much quieter than last time we were here – just three other boats. Tonight we will investigate the possibilities of dining ashore and maybe take a walk before it gets dark. I have yet to investigate whether there are any geocaches in the area.

The entrance to Porto Kayio anchorage

A cave just begging to be explored

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Where the Wind (or Cruise Ships) Send Us…

September 4, 2018

One of the delights of this life is that there are few rules. When we first set off we quite deliberately had no fixed plans and we try to stick to this philosophy. There are very few ‘ought to’ s beyond basic life support and safety, other than certain constraints if we have made arrangements to meet people.

However, often circumstances dictate our decisions. We may be heading somewhere and the weather deteriorates so we run for cover to the nearest available safe haven. Alternatively the wind may change direction so that rather than battling into a head wind we decide to go somewhere else. Or we find somewhere really lovely and decide to stay longer. Equally we have raised anchor and fled ahead of time, usually because of obnoxious neighbours, but also quite often because the wind has changed and we find ourselves close to a lee shore.

En route to Dokos. Strong winds forced us to haul the dinghy out of the water and don lifejackets.

The past week or so has been an example of this kind of thing. Having stayed longer than originally intended on the island of Salamina, simply because it was so lovely there, (see earlier post) we also wound up staying longer in Poros than we had originally intended. There was a threat of thunderstorms and their associated potential high winds about, so we stayed put for an extra day or two.

We then set off for Dokos, and a bay on the north coast that we have always referred to as Bluebottle Bay. The reason for this is that when we last visited (several years ago now) with our friends Iain and Terri, we were plagued by flies. We managed to tolerate them the first evening by dint of mosquito screens and chemical warfare. However when they were replaced the next morning by hundreds of wasps, we left in haste. You begin to get the picture, I hope?

The western anchorage on Dokos

Anyway this time there were no unpleasant insects but we found the eastern side of the bay to be very crowded so we went about a mile further on to the western end and took long lines ashore. Next morning however, the wind was blowing straight in and we were only a few metres from some very unfriendly-looking rocks. Our anchor is pretty reliable but there is no point in tempting fate. The flotilla that had been in the eastern end had departed, so off we went. I’m very glad that we did because the snorkelling was spectacular at the new location – thousands upon thousands of tiny fish in vast shoals that swirled and moved in the water as a single body. The shoreline plunging into the water was steep, rapidly dropping to a depth of 20 metres or so and the visibility was wonderful. As well as the small fry, there were shoals of larger fish and yet more pipefish, such as we had seen on Salamina.

Sunrise on Dokos, taken from the eastern end. (Boat in photo is not Rampage.)

I should have liked to stay longer but we are aware that we have quite a long way to go to get back to the yard for lift-out in October and the weather becomes more unpredictable as we head into autumn: also, we’d completely run out of fresh food. We therefore set off the next day, planning to go to a place called Astros on the Peloponnese.

Halfway there, Duncan suddenly demanded the binoculars and peered through them at a ketch coming the other way. It was a Halberg Rassey flying a Swiss flag and when we hailed her over the radio, the crew confirmed that it was indeed our friends Claudio and Corinne aboard Levethia, whom we’ve not seen for a couple of years. We drew alongside and briefly exchanged news across the water before they continued on to Milos and we set off once more for Astros. We hope to see them again, when we are all back in the Ionian.

After that wonderful and totally unexpected encounter, the wind picked up and we had a fantastic sail. However, as it was a north-westerly, making any progress north was going to be a long slow battle so instead we opted to go to another anchorage rejoicing in the name of Fokianos. We are delighted that we made this decision because Fokianos turned out to be lovely. We anchored off the beach and then paddled ashore in the kayak to check out the possibilities for supper. There were no shops but there were two little tavernas so, having eaten ice creams we returned to Rampage, fully intending to have supper ashore.

The beach at Fokianos, Rampage is the boat on the left.

However, at about 7pm we found once again that the wind had changed and was steadily building, so D went off in the dinghy to investigate a small inlet on the northern shore of the bay. This looked much more sheltered so we moved across. There was less space to swing so again it was lines ashore and we also deployed the kedge anchor this time, as added insurance. We clearly alarmed the other boat that had been anchoring near us, who then followed suit. By now it was getting quite dark and I was amused to see she had her navigation lights and also her anchor light showing, when generally you have one or the other. I am told however, that this was conceivably legitimate if her steaming light was out of commission. Who knows? Another boat that came in after dark was showing a white stern light but no other lights. People often seem to have problems with their lights and it is not uncommon to see either navigation lights or an anchor light displayed on boats that are safely tucked up in a marina – but I digress. We didn’t get our supper ashore but to compensate, our new location was even more lovely and next morning I discovered that the snorkelling was as good as it had been on Dokos. I even saw a small moray eel – a rare sight indeed. After my swim it was time to move on but we shall definitely try to return.

Taken from the inlet where we finally settled in Fokianos. My phone calls it Arcadia – it could be right!

We are now in Monemvasia, a very attractive little place that we have visited before. The old walled town on a rock, linked by a causeway to the mainland, has been sensitively restored and is a maze of bars and restaurants full of beautiful people. In the modern town we can restock the larder, refuel and take on water before we head round Cape Maleas into the most remote part of the Peloponnese. Even here in Monemvasia though, we have not been permitted to settle.

The walled old town on the rock at Monemvasia

We came in alongside the northern quay as we have done on previous occasions but had barely got settled when a charming and very talkative gentleman appeared and explained that we would need to re-berth (or birth, as the sign says!) because the big yachts now use the north quay and we were taking up too much space if one happened to come in.

‘Where would you like us to go?’ we asked, and were assured that we were fine where we were, but we just needed to be stern-to rather than alongside.

Stern-to on the northern quay at Monemvasia

We duly re-berthed as requested. The next morning however, D rushed back from the bakery to say there was a cruise ship approaching and we’d probably need to move. Next moment the port police and our delightful friend from the domus were telling we needed to move now, now, now! So with fascinated cruise passengers peering down at us from their lofty heights, we scurried away round to the southern harbour. So far we’ve been here just over 24 hours and no-one has asked us to move again – or indeed charged us anything to stay here, so moving is not all bad!

The cruise ship that ousted us

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Early Morning Exercise

August 27, 2018

Setting off up the back streets

When we came ashore in Poros we were both rather creaky, having not gone ashore at all while in the previous anchorage i.e. for about three days! Okay we had swum a bit but that was all the exercise we’d had. The temperatures are very high at the moment so we decided that if we were going to go for a walk we would have to get up early. I did a bit of online research and spotted two geocaches in the town and so the plan was made.

Yesterday morning the alarm went at 06:30 and filled with enthusiasm, we were up and ashore by 06:50, having had a morning coffee (in his case) and tea (in my own). The sky was lovely – shades of pale pinks and mauve as the sun was just starting to rise. The first cache was at the Clock Tower, clearly visible as we approached in the dinghy. The town is built on a hill and the houses rise in tiers from the waterfront with the tower standing high above the red-tiled rooftops.

Looking down towards the Clock Tower from above across the rooftops

This was a good time to walk as it was relatively cool and the narrow winding streets were deserted at this early hour on a Sunday. Occasionally we came upon a devote elderly lady in black on her way to church and once we disturbed a dog that gave a few perfunctory yaps before settling back down to sleep again. The difficulty we had was that the GPS bore little relation to the mapping on our geocaching app so we wandered up and down, encountering dead ends and unexpected twists and turns but in due course we reached the Clock Tower and signed the log.

The Clock Tower at Poros

We were both content because the views across the bay were amazing and it was fun to explore these tiny streets built long before motor cars. Down at the shoreline the delicious smells from the bakery mixed with less romantic undertones of sewage and made me thankful that we had opted to anchor well offshore.

Little winding streets far too narrow for cars.

Further up among the houses we were confronted with magnificent displays of bougainvillea and hibiscus, the heady scent from jasmine spilling over crumbling walls and the glorious sight of fruit trees: lemons, tangerines, pomegranates and lots of prickly pears.

The Old Mill at Poros

Our second target was the Old Mill which we had even more trouble reaching but the effort paid dividends because although it is not visible from the shore, the mill stands considerably higher that the Clock Tower and the views were simply breathtaking.

The channel between Poros and the mainland, looking south east

Poros lies about a quarter of a mile from the mainland creating a narrow navigable channel about a mile long. From the mill we could see both ways and the sun, now risen, sent a streak of silver across the still water.

Going down was much quicker as could see our way down and found a couple of wide flights of steps that led us almost directly back to the dinghy, down at the waterfront. We were glad to stop at a café for coffee and croissants as we had been walking, mostly climbing, for an hour and a half and it had become very hot. We were just thankful that we had set off as early as we had.

This morning’s expedition was ill-fated from the moment I forgot to set the alarm. We had agreed to get up early once again, and head off along the shore of the island to find a third cache.

Duncan was boiling the kettle as I climbed out of bed and looked surprised when I mentioned the walk.

‘Do you still want to go?’ he asked surprised.

‘Of course,’ I replied, ‘that’s why I got up as soon as you said it was a quarter to seven.’

‘Er no,’ he said, ‘that was nearly two hours ago. It’s half past eight now!’

I hadn’t so much gone back to sleep as passed out. I would have sworn that it was only moments earlier that he had told me it was time to get up.

Anyway, I was still determined to go, so off we set. It was significantly hotter because we were later and there was less shade though we tried to keep to it as much as possible. This time there was no risk of getting lost as we headed off out of town along the coast road but it still meandered up and down hills and round the little bays. Café owners were up and about, preparing for another busy day and we were passed by the occasional motorist. In the bays, early birds we up and already in the sea – not so much swimming as wallowing in the warm water. I was enjoying the sights and sounds around me but began to feel grumpy vibes coming from my companion.

‘You’re doing this under sufferance aren’t you?’ I asked.

‘I’m doing it because you want to,’ he replied.

Ripening grapes on an abandoned cafe terrace

We pressed on until we reached the point in the road where we needed to get down to the shore and discovered a very robust and uncompromising fence and locked gates. We retraced our footsteps but there was no way to get to the cache from the little beach so we went on once more but it became obvious that the only way to reach it was from the water and we were not equipped for a swim. Defeated, I agreed to turn round and go back to the boat for a swim and then breakfast. Duncan’s mood improved immediately whilst I muttered and sulked about the fact that the cache owner had failed to warn people that they would need to swim or take a boat.

‘We’ll go in the dinghy this evening,’ my loving spouse consoled me, but tonight the sky looks threatening so we will not be leaving the boat. We shall probably leave Poros tomorrow, having stocked up on food for a few days so it looks as though that cache will be one that got away. Still, we did at least stretch our legs.

The threatening sky this evening, which never actually came the anything …

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The appalling shortage of place names in Greece

August 27, 2018

The Navy Bay anchorage at Poros, Poros Island

We may well have commented on this before now, but there is a shortage of place names in Greece. In some parts, it’s downright confusing. On Meganisi there’s Vathi, commonly know as Little Vathi: not twenty miles away is the island of Ithaca, fabled home of that wandering Greek, Odysseus, and his wife Penelope. It’s also home to another Vathi, better known in the cruising fraternity as Big Vathi. I won’t even begin to consider the number of Agios Nicolaos villages about the country. You do, I trust, begin to see the problem.

We are anchored at the moment off yet another of these shared place names: Poros, in the Saronic, about thirty miles or so south of Athens. Because it’s a relatively large place and is near Athens, it tends to be known as Poros, whilst the other Poros frequented by yachties is known as Poros, Kefalonia. Well, it is if you’ve travelled between the Ionian and Aegean, so it’s the mark of the wide-ranging Italian-avoiding sailor to make a differentiation between the two.

It’s perhaps just worth pausing before we get too sanctimonious on the topic to reflect that there’s a Malpas up the Fal near Truro, there’s another just outside Newport in South Wales and there’s at least one other in Cheshire where we own a house. Clearly, when a really good name is found for a place, it just gets recycled no matter what nation is involved.

Anyhow, that’s all by the by. We ran out of food at our last stop and there were no tavernas ashore to feed us so we had to move. Operating on the Ionian principle of move early, be sure of a place, we left at about 9.30 am and arrived here by about 1pm. In the Ionian at this time of year, we’d have expected to see about 70% of the quayside occupied and the rest of the space filled with hovering flotilla leaders waiting for their charges to arrive. Not so Poros where the quays held a few boats and there was bags of space in the anchorage.

In keeping with our rodent control and ventilation protocols, we opted to anchor off. Apart from food, which is easily available most places with a vestige of civilisation, we were also looking for a laundry. Having opted out of the Zea Marina super-whizzo, how-much-a-kilo, gold-plated system we had by now built up a significant backlog of grubby stuff. Like a 100 litre dry bag full.

We came ashore, sans laundry, on a recce mission to be greeted by the sight of a diminutive beaded Greek riding a quad bike along the quay with a box on the back proclaiming “Laundry, wash and dry”. Once he’d understood the boat was at anchor and the laundry still on it, he told us to drop it off with him at the butcher’s after 5 that evening.

So I did. His eyes bulged slightly at the size of the dry bag and he relaxed somewhat when I said Monday was fine (this was on Saturday). I also bought the two most enormous pork chops from him for supper. I now understand where belly pork comes from, as I had to remove a healthy helping of it from each chop to fit them in the pan…

And so we’ve stayed here since, aiming to move tomorrow (perhaps). We’re thinking of Dokos as our next stop, before Navplion and them Monemvasia. Then a week or two rounding the southern Peloponnese before we head back to the Ionian and lift out in October.

Night view of Poros town from the Navy Anchorage.

Oh, the laundry. We picked it up this morning, after buying fresh fish from the market. I was expecting it to have worked out as three or four loads, at €10 a time. I was more than a little amazed to be told “2 loads, €20 please”. Magic. And all done with a wonderful sense of humour and smiles.