Sightseeing and Socialising

May 30, 2014

Well, having spent 10 days in Spinalonga, we spent even longer on Ios, due in part to the same problem: the wind. However, it worked out somewhat better in terms of things to do than Spinalonga did.

Ios harbour (taken from Lynne's patio on the opposite side of the bay.)

Ios harbour (taken from Lynne’s patio on the opposite side of the bay.)

As reported in the last blog, we came to Ios to dive. However, because the winds were set in the south, therefore creating a swell on to the south coast of Ios, diving was ruled out for some time. So, as mentioned in the last blog, we took a trip to the island of Santorini, leaving Rampage moored in Ios.


Travelling by ferry is always something of a fun thing for us as we go so much faster than when on our own boat and have nothing to do except sit back and enjoy the ride. We caught the 2pm slow ferry, which took about an hour to make the trip. Chaos reigned on arrival at the port on Santorini with about 300 passengers all milling round looking for their transport to their hotels. We found ours and embarked in the minibus for the trip up the crater wall; it really is quite spectacular – a series of hairpin bends as the road climbs about 400 metres up what is an almost vertical cliff.

View of the crater with Santorini to the left of the picture

View of the crater with Santorini to the left of the picture

Our hotel was in Thiera, the main town, close to a scooter hire place, where I was sent as soon as we’d dumped stuff in the room. We then departed to explore the island, aiming to get to the northern tip in time for sunset, which is one of the big selling points for the island.

The charming village at the base of the cliffs below Oia; it was almost entirely comprised of restaurants!  (Note the donkeys wending their way back up the hill after a day of bringing visitors up and down the cliffs.)

The charming village at the base of the cliffs below Oia; it was almost entirely comprised of restaurants! (Note the donkeys wending their way back up the hill after a day of bringing visitors up and down the cliffs.)

First stop was at a bar overlooking the sea filled crater, quite spectacular, as were the prices….. We then carried on down on foot to a rock pinnacle hanging over the crater to claim a couple of caches, before going back to the scooter and finding our way to the northern end of the island. We pottered about a bit before finding somewhere to sit to watch the sunset. In the event, the sunset was a bit disappointing as clouds moved in before the sun had dropped very far and thus we didn’t get to see the islands silhouetted against the reds and golds of the sunset.


Our ferry was booked for midday the following day, so we had a leisurely breakfast before catching a ride back down to the port for the fast ferry trip back to Ios. With hindsight, we should have stayed two nights as it would have given us time to see the southern end of the island as well as some of the archaeological remains.

Our somewhat disappointing sunset on Santorini

Our somewhat disappointing sunset on Santorini

Back aboard Rampage we were having a leisurely afternoon when J thought she heard someone calling us from the shore but didn’t move fast enough and they were gone by the time she got to the cockpit. This broke us out of our doze, so we decided to go ashore for a walk up to the Chora, or main town up on the hilltop above. As we got off the gang plank, I noticed a visiting card tucked into the ropes; at almost the same instant we were hailed by someone approaching us from the Enigma Bar. It turned out to be Rose and Brian off Alixora, whom we last encountered in Gibraltar in our first summer.


We knew that they were in the area but hadn’t seen their boat. As it turned out, we wouldn’t see their boat for some time, as they were stuck with the same winds as we were but on another island and like us, they had decided to do a bit of island hopping to break the time up. They were to spend a couple of nights in Ios before going on to Santorini and then back to Naxos where their boat was moored. We had a couple of drinks before inviting them to join us on board for a curry supper.

Rose in the modern amphitheatre in the hills behind Ios, testing out the acoustics.  Milopotas Beach in the background.

Rose in the modern amphitheatre in the hills behind Ios, testing out the acoustics. Milopotas Beach in the background.

The following morning we had hired a car to explore the island a bit and Brian and Rose joined us for the day. We had a great time, visiting the modern amphitheatre in the Chora, Homer’s tomb on the northern tip of Ios and the remains of an ancient fort called Paleokastro (old castle) on the east coast. All very spectacular scenery, if a little bit up and down….. That evening we took the easy option of taking the car to the Chora where we had supper together in the best restaurant we’ve yet found in Greece: Katogi. The place is small, tucked away into a couple of rooms and a passageway in the Chora. It serves Greek influenced food that is light years away from the typical Greek fare, showing imagination and flare. Just great and they play jazz and turned down the volume at J’s request so that I could still hear the conversation. Brilliant. It’s worth going back to Ios some time just to go there again.

J at the somewhat dubious "Homer's Tomb"

J at the somewhat dubious “Homer’s Tomb”


The spectacular, vertiginous walk to the Byzantine fortress on Ios.

The spectacular, vertiginous walk to the Byzantine fortress on Ios.

The following day, we finally got to go diving! Brian and Rose departed to Santorini with promises to keep in touch and we caught the bus to Milopotas bay where the dive centre is. Meltemi Divers is a great little dive centre set up in the corner of a ‘young things’ hotel complex called Far Out. It was not fully up and running and therefore fairly quiet; we’re told it gets quite noisy later in the season. Most of their more interesting diving is done from their RIB which, in the standard fashion for this part of the world, comes into the beach to pick up divers; you wade out to it with your gear and climb aboard in waist deep water.  We had a brilliant dive in crystal clear water onto the wreck of a small freighter which had been carrying bags of cement to the island when it missed the entrance to the harbour, hit some rocks and sank. The wreck is well broken up apart from the bow, which rests pyramid like on the bottom offering a home to lots of sea life.


The next day (20 May) was spent doing various bits of boaty admin. We had been planning on leaving Ios in the next couple of days and heading north and east to meet up with Steve and Linda on Tantrum but changing winds now looked like making that difficult if not impossible, so we got in touch with Steve and suggested he came to Ios as the winds would be OK for them. He agreed and decided to leave for Ios that afternoon. So it was that we were having a drink with Jason, Kate and Lynne from Meltemi Divers when Tantrum hove into view in the harbour. We helped them berth in the corner of the harbour a couple of berths down from us and the adjourned to the Enigma Bar for a few beers.


The following day Linda and Julia took the bus up to the Chora (Linda doesn’t have a low gear fitted, so doesn’t do hills….) whilst Steve and I put the world to rights over coffees, coke and, eventually lunch in Enigma. The ladies eventually joined us some hours later. In the meantime, the several Brit boats had got together and decided to meet up on the quay for a few drinks before supper that evening. The quayside party which ensued was great fun, after which we went aboard Tantrum along with another couple (Steve and Katie off Rob) for supper. A late night……


The following morning, we got up revoltingly early, packed our dive gear and caught the bus to the dive centre. We nearly didn’t make it as the driver pointed out to us that the 9am bus didn’t go to the beach but then said he’d take us anyway……. We had a great dive on a reef to the north of the harbour entrance; the entry was a little bumpy due to the strong northerly wind but otherwise a great dive. On both these dives, I was very pleased with my air consumption: typically over the years it has been considerably worse the J’s, such that I usually try to get a bigger air tank than her. Not these to dives, where we both had broadly comparable consumption.


That evening, we had the two Steves, Linda and Katie round to supper on board Rampage. We had a fair amount to drink and really enjoyed ourselves, talking what I suspect was utter gibberish until gone midnight, when the party broke up.


The next day, Steve and Linda went off to Santorini whilst we cleared up the debris from the night before and generally took things gently. The winds for the following day (24 May) were looking favourable so we decided we’d break out of Ios and head about 20 miles west to Folegandros, a small island about half way to Milos, our next stop. That evening the Brit boat crews again got together and accompanied by Lynne walked up to the Chora for supper in nice little place called The Nest.

Duncan with Steve and Linda

Duncan with Steve and Linda

Next morning, J visited the Port Police to pay our harbour dues (€34.10 for 12 days) whilst I raided the ATM. We then did a large shop at the Carefour Express located about 50 metres from the boat before we set sail just after 1030. We caught the wind just outside the harbour and sailed most of the way to the island, including getting the cruising chute up for the first this year. The anchorage was great: muddy bottom with easily spotted patches of weed. However, we hadn’t really taken the ferry traffic into consideration when choosing where to stop; when one appeared it was rapidly obvious we were dangerously close to its turning circle, so dropped back to a safe distance before re-anchoring after it had left. There is not much to Folegandros, which is very hilly. The hamlet by the port is mostly holiday homes with a few bars and a tiny shop. There is a Chora but it is 3 km away up a very steep road, so we decided to give it a miss…… Internet access proved very iffy so we went ashore to have a drink and use their wifi to check emails and the weather forecasts.


We intended staying two nights and were dozing through a hot afternoon when the peace was shattered by the arrival of Tantrum. They had left Ios that morning after their trip to Santorini and had decided to follow our path. We had supper on board with them that evening including backed bananas for pud, which I particularly liked.

Cruising beside Tantrum

Cruising beside Tantrum

The next day we set out for Milos; we’d reckoned on about 7 hours sailing to get there, so we didn’t feel the need for nasty early starts and left about 10am. We picked up some wind on the way and sailed or motor sailed much of the way. We’d wanted to use the cruising chute but I managed to mess up connecting it to halyard which disappeared up to the top of the mast….. We anchored off the town of Adhamas on Milos and almost immediately went ashore to meet up with Nicky and Paul on Carmel; they’d been there for ages, stuck by the same winds that had pinned us to Ios and were aiming to set off the following morning for Porto Kheli. We’d last seen them as we escaped Spinalonga and they entered the lagoon to begin their time of penance there! We plan to meet up again in the Ionian. We rounded the day off with a meal ashore with Steve and Linda before having a fairly early night, as we were all bushed.

Lady lace-making on Milos

Lady lace-making on Milos

The next day was busy! J went up the mast to recover the spinnaker halyard and do a running repair on the radar reflector. We then had a passage planning conference on Tantrum and decided that we’d sail for Monemvasia the following day as we could go alongside there to sit out several days of yet more nasty winds that were forecast, rather than try riding it out in Milos. J and I then spent much of the rest of the day cleaning the hull of growth; not a very hard job, just monotonous and repetitive. That evening we had the crew if Tantrum round for supper; it was a fairly early close of play, as we needed to leave by about 5am the next day to get to the mainland before dark.

Dawn as we left Milos

Dawn as we left Milos

I hate the early morning. So does J. So a 4.30am start is not good. But we did it. And weighed anchor by 0450am. The first 5 or 6 hours were under motor and we stood watches to let each other catch up on sleep. About midday the wind filled in and we were able to sail; indeed the wind built to the extent that we wound up with all 3 reefs in and were still making 6+ knots. However, as is often the case, the wind carried us somewhat north of where we wanted to be, so as we approached the mainland we tacked to bring ourselves south. As we got to where we would need to tack again to bring ourselves into Monemvasia, the wind disappeared and we made our final approach under the motor. The quay was full, so we rafted up alongside Tantrum before going ashore for a beer with them and Brian and Rose, who had set off from Milos at 3am to get here before us all!

Alixora in the foreground with Tantrum behind and Rampage rafted up to Tantrum

Alixora in the foreground with Tantrum behind and Rampage rafted up to Tantrum

Today, the winds have arrived as promised and they are accompanied by buckets of rain. We’re lucky here: there’s water and electricity available and the town with shops and so forth is only a few hundred metres away. We’re here probably until next Monday when there seems to be a gap in the winds which will let us get round Cape Maleas and into the Peloponnese proper. With 6 weeks before our first visitors, we have plenty of time to get there and the winds should start to moderate soon……


We will bid farewell to Tantrum here, as they head north via the Corinth to Preveza but we aim to cruise in company with Brian and Rose for a bit as they are going the same route as us.


One comment

  1. Dear Duncan and Julia,

    As I stand at my desk in DC, working away, your blog posts always bring a welcome respite and a delighted smile to my face. We’re so glad about your on-going adventure. We didn’t get to wish you a Happy 5th Anniversary in April but do so now with all good wishes for another wonderful sailing season and many more to come! Much love, Ruth and David

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