Back Afloat at Last 11th May 2022

Well who could have predicted that when we left Vaila in Kalamata in October 2019, we would not be back until now. The Covid Pandemic put paid to all plans but luckily we are now able to get back to some sort of normality. Andy did manage to come out for 5 weeks in September 2021 and put copper coat antifouling on (a massive job taking a week) as well as other jobs. So we have a bit of a head start this time.

We arrived here on 3rd May and spent a very busy week sorting out Vaila. We decided to stay in an airbnb apartment overlooking the marina which made life much more civilised.

View from our apartment

Vaila got launched on the 11th May and we are now putting sails on, filing up with food, water and diesel and hoping to set off on sunday 15th May, assuming all items come back on time from servicing (outboard, life jackets and life raft). This may be optimistic as this is Greece!

Vaila being launched
Another launch Greek style

We have decided to leave Greece this year. We’ve had some amazing sailing here and seen wonderful places and met lovely people but, as we are no longer in the EU, the beauraucracy has become very challenging. The journey out to Kalamata is long and involves 2 flights and we are now restricted to 90 days in 180 in the EU, so feel it’s better to move somewhere more accessible from home.

So the first leg of this weatward journey will be sailing to Sardinia in the next 6 weeks. We have got an annual contract in a marina in Cagliari. Friends are coming out in the next few weeks to help with the passage making, as its 1000 miles sailing via the Ionian, Italy, and Sicily.

Vaila on the berth in Kalamata

As we have limited data and little WiFi I will keep the posts shorter from now on.

The End of Another Season(14 September to October 2019)

Well it’s the end of another sailing season. We know this because our flights home are tomorrow and because it’s blowing 30+ knots with rain and thunder! The start of Autumn here in Kalamata. The waves are breaking over the breakwater but Vaila is safely out on the hard and we are just doing the last packing and cleaning jobs.
Our friends Trina and Joe arrived to sail with us on 14th September and we had a great week with them. The first day was quite windy so we explored the old town and castle in Kalamata.



The quirky railway Park in Kalamata

We left early the next morning for the 40+ mile trip to Methoni. We managed a good sail for the second half of the trip and dropped anchor amongst a few other boats in a strong breeze.


Methoni anchorage

The next day was fine and we spent the morning catching up on news and swimming from the boat. The wind was rising all the time though so we set off for Navarino bay at lunchtime.

Andy and Joe rigged the staysail and we all had a good shot at helming in the 15+ knots of wind on the nose. It took a few tacks to get through the spectacular opening into Navarino bay, but once inside it was calm and we anchored in our favourite spot in the NW corner. There was only 1 other boat anchored there, ALIZE ,so we had a lovely quiet evening under the milky way with a few shooting stars thrown in.


Entering Navarino bay

We took the dinghy ashore the next morning and walked up to the ruined Venetian fort. Unfortunately Joe tweaked his back so stayed on the beach. It was spectacular balancing along the half broken battlements and the views were stunning.


Looking down towards our anchorage in Navarino bay


Ruined Venetian fort, n


Navarino sunset. Lucky alignment.

Trina and I swam back to Vaila and Joe also managed. Then we headed back to Methoni. It was a quick sail so we were anchored by 6pm in time for a swim and dinner ashore. A windy night followed but it was not too uncomfortable.


Going ashore at Methoni

The next morning we got ashore to explore the better preserved Venetian fort at Methoni . Joe borrowed the crutch (which I have had on board since Cadiz!) and managed OK. Trina and Joe were suitably impressed by the Fort and Turkish tower.


Methoni Venetian fort


Turkish tower (Photo courtesy Trina)


Coffee stop with a view at Methoni


This is the view

The evening got windy and we moved Vaila closer in to get out of the swell and fortunately we had a quiet night. However , we were rudely awoken at 6am by an approaching thunderstorm. Our thunderstorm app showed a large thunderstorm cell approaching, so off before dawn , watching lighting striking the water only a few miles away! We put the phones and tablet into the oven a couple of times (as it acts as a Faraday cage), but we were lucky and storm veered off , so the rest of the sail back to Kalamata was uneventful.

Trina and Joe left the next day (21st September). We had a sociable time after they left too with various folk from other boats . The weather became more unsettled and we only managed a few day sails.


Kardamili anchorage

It’s been a good year with more sailing than motoring , covering 700 miles over 3 months. We like Kalamata and Vaila will be safe and well looked after on the hard until we return next year.




Stormy sunset at Kalamata

The Best Laid Plans…….(4-14th September 2019)

We arrived back in Kalamata marina on 3rd September, after a long and convoluted journey via Gatwick and a very brief overnight stay. All was well on Vaila but she was covered in the expected brown dust. It was extremely hot especially since the boat had been moved to quay A which is right under the breakwater and gets no breeze from the south. We found a few things and made some lists and didn’t do much else. Dinner at the snack bar in the marina and a welcome sleep followed.

After an 11 hour sleep we felt refreshed and ready for cleaning and sorting. The bikes came out for a shopping trip to the AB supermarket and we met up with Horst and Ute from Apologia II whom we’d met briefly earlier in the year.
By the 6th we felt ready to leave the marina so headed for Kardamilli on the east side of the Kolpos. We’d heard it was a nice anchorage and we thought we’d stop overnight and then head round the cape to Porto Kayio. We motored down and noticed that the oil pressure was only reading 1 bar but the skipper wasn’t too concerned and we were not far from the anchorage so continued. We anchored off the beach in mixed sand and rocks and managed to find some good sand on the second attempt. A lot of swimming in amongst lots of fish and enjoying the breeze of not being in the marina. There was a swell but thankfully it died down before evening.


Approaching Kardamili



Kardamili anchorage

Andy looked in the engine compartment first thing next morning and there was a significant oil leak, so no Porto Kaiyo this time but 10 miles back to Kalamata . Andy worked on the engine for the next 2 days in the heat and managed to fix it with new oil of better viscosity.


A happy skipper after fixing oil leak

After that we had a surreal afternoon drinking and singing along to the Dubliners with the Austrians Horst and Ute! It turned out that Horst even had Talisker malt on board.
Andy escaped a bad hangover luckily and we managed a cycle up to the Castle which gave a nice view over the town. We even passed a shop selling fire Hydrants!


Looking down on Kalamata



What every town needs…a fire hydrant shop!

We got away for 1 more night to Koroni where we had another rocky night.


Koroni town with the Venetian fort ” the second eye of the Republic”.

Then a good day’s sail back to the marina where we are now waiting on our friends Joe and Trina to arrive.




To Kalamata (4th – 16th June 2019)

Our friend Paul arrived on schedule on 4th June and Andy picked him up from Kalamata in a hire car and brought him to Vaila in Navplion. We had an early start the next morning and had to motor for a couple of hours before putting sails up. The wind steadily rose but with reefed genoa and main sail we beat comfortably and we were berthed in Leonidhion by 1530. We introduced Paul to Margaret’s Taverna and we got a huge bag of tomatoes and cucumbers “for our friend and the boat” as well as a lovely dinner.


Underwater lights and fish in Leonidhion

The forecast was favourable for the next few days so we left early on the 6th to get to Monemvasia . A sailing holidays flotilla of 12 boats was in the wee marina so we managed to get a space alongside the old ferry pier where 4 or 5 other yachts were already tied up. We walked up to the old town briefly and luckily the large sailing cruise ship, anchored off, left so it was quiet. When we got back to Vaila we saw that several yachts had been chased away by a huge motor boat that was now stern to just beside us! Lucky we were away when it came in, otherwise we would no doubt have been made to move as well! It turned out to be a noisy night, with the Greeks in full party mood on the motorboat !! Thank goodness for earplugs.



Because the forecast looked a bit more settled we decided to spend the next day exploring Monemvasia with Paul. It’s such an amazing Byzantine town which has been partially restored. We were there 2 years ago but it would have been a shame for Paul to miss this world heritage site. Despite the heat, we walked all the way up to the restored church Agios Sofia and the castle ruins.


Paul and Andy having coffee (I had some too!)


One of back streets of Monemvasia. No cars or other vehicles.


At the top of Monemvasia. The rest of the town looked like this until 1960s


Inside Agia Sofia in Monemvasia



A delicious lunch followed, taken in the shady taverna next to the main square. When we returned to Vaila the motorboat had gone so I managed a swim in the beautiful clear water, before an early night, as we were planning a 6am start to get the 50 miles round Cape Malea and into Porto Kaiyo .



Just as well we had decided to leave early, as a small cruise ship was coming in to dock on the ferry pier and we would have had to move anyway. It would have been a rude awakening for the other yachts berthed there.



Cape Malea

It turned out to be a fairly calm passage round Cape Malea with a lot of motoring, but there was a lot of large shipping passing by and a ferry needed avoiding action, so we had to be aware. We did eventually get the sails up for a wee bit and by time we got to Porto Kayio it was gusting 15 knots. There were 7 boats in already but we found a spot on sand and dug the anchor in. A night of sitting outside and checking transits in the big gusts and watching a 110 foot racing yacht “Barong D “,with Luxembourg flag, tucking itself into a wee inlet and taking lines ashore. Easy when you have 5 crew and dinghies!!


Porto Kaiyo anchorage

The wind dropped by 1130 and we had a quiet night after that and another early start the next morning as it was another 50 miles to the next place. The forecast was not good for Methoni so we opted to go straight to Kalamata marina where we will keep Vaila while we go home. A long day motoring with a bit of exciting sailing in the last few miles. The skipper did a great job reversing into our berth in a strong wind (practice makes perfect). Luckily there are lazy lines so no need for an anchor. It was all familiar as we had been here 2 years ago. The hot showers were much appreciated too.

In the next few days we took day trips to Methoni and ancient Olympia in a hire car to show Paul some of the sites.


Methoni. Venetian fort and Turkish tower








Exquisite bronze horse, Olympia

Paul flew back on the 13th and we are now doing chores and getting Vaila ready. It’s now roasting hot so we tend to work in the mornings and then take it easy in the afternoons . There are beaches and nice ice cream shops within cycling distance so it’s great to cool off.
We fly home on the 18th leaving Vaila in the water and are really looking forward to seeing family and friends again. It’s been a very mixed 7 weeks since we launched, with more settled weather only appearing recently and changes of plans frequently required. That’s Greek sailing for you! The next instalment will be in September when we come back to Vaila.

Flying Cat to Hydra (6-28 May 2019)


Here we are sitting in the beautiful wee harbour of Leonidhion (lat 37 Deg 08′ N, long 22 Deg 53′ E) on the Peloponnese peninsula, after another few hours of classic Greek sailing weather. We had the harbour to ourselves a few days ago, so we berthed alongside on the dog leg of the wall. Last night lots of charter and flotilla yachts arrived and moored stern too on the main quay. They had a slow start this morning due to no wind and some engine trouble on one of the yachts but most of them left about 1130 in a flat calm. It was still flat calm at 1200 but by 1203 it was blowing 30 knots in the harbour and boats were dragging their anchors, hitting the quayside, trying to get out and nearly colliding and it was general mayhem and chaos. If the flotilla had still been in, there would have been serious damage to boats. Now it’s 1500 and back to a more normal afternoon wind. Such is sailing in Greece.
We’ve still had a mixed bag of weather in the past few weeks, sailing down the Evia channel and stopping at Voufolo and the Petali islands before heading out to Batsi on Andros, another of our favourite places. We stayed in Batsi a couple of nights and Andy started doing battle with trying to pay the new Greek cruising tax. It’s a whole new system that’s on line but there is no on line facility to pay the tax. Andy tried to pay using an international transfer from our bank and thought he’d been successful but unfortunately the payment was returned about a week later!
We had a brief stop on Kea island anchored in the bay but it was where steam ships took on coal in the old days and the industrial feel was still evident. There were also a lot of power boats from Athens and loud music on shore, so we were glad to just stop for 1 night.
Our next stop was Olympic marina, SE of Athens, which allowed us to get shopping in, washing done and general cleaning before our friend Sandra arrived on the 14th May for a week’s cruising.
Sandra arrived early morning as planned but the weather forecast was not great, so we decided to have an extra night in the marina and get a taxi into Lavrion to explore the town a bit. Lavrion is a big town on the Aegean side and has a commercial harbour as well as accommodating several charter fleets . We wandered round the streets and had a lovely fish lunch at a taverna virtually inside the fish market. Can’t get fresher fish than that. It rained during the night so we were glad we were tucked in the marina.
We left the next morning at 0800 and rounded Cape Sounion in a calm sea. The temple of Poseidon on the clifftop looked spectacular especially with several microlights flying over it in the early morning light. Unfortunately the weather forecast was not good enough to allow us to anchor in the bay overnight.
We headed for Poros island (lat 37Deg 29’N, long 23Deg 27′ E) in the Saronic Gulf and were met by the usual chaos and lack of space. We did manage to squeeze in at the east end where the charter company have boats and close to where friends of our were berthed already. George and Christine stopped in on Vaila for a drink and we explored Poros town a bit before eating on board and enjoying a spectacular sunset.


Poros town



Poros sunset

The next day we sailed up to Epidavros and anchored in old Epidavros off the beach. It was a beautiful spot and I had my first swim of the season (water 18 deg C). The weather obliged and we ate in the cockpit and played cards outside while the moon rose and cicadas sang. One of those magical nights.
The weather didn’t last unfortunately and next day dawned wet but luckily not windy. We had a slow start and we motored the whole 4 miles up to new Epidavros harbour. This harbour has some lazy lines and as we were so early, we got a place no bother. A kind man from the Latvian boat next door helped us with our stern lines and picking up the lazy line. The waiting taxi driver on the quay gave us his card and we arranged to go to the ancient Greek amphitheatre that afternoon.



The Amphitheatre was amazing and is still used today, seating 14000 people. The acoustics are so superb that a coin dropped in the centre at the bottom can be heard on the top seats, as was demonstrated while we were there. Nearby was also a great place of healing in ancient Greek times with a hospital complex that even included an isolation wing and places for relatives to stay. There were still many wild flowers blooming on the site as there has been a lot of rain here this spring.
We left Epidavros the next day and motored back to Poros, stopping for a swim in a small bay at the N side of Poros just round from Ak Petra (very appropriate). Poros was even busier than before and the anchorage in Navy Bay was tight and exposed, but we managed to get alongside on the concrete quay by the north pier. Safer than being stern too as the N quay has a bad reputation. A lot of boats were damaged here in the storm last year.
Sandra and I took a day trip to Hydra (lat 37 Deg 21′ N long 23 Deg 28′ E) on the flying Cat from Poros the next day. Hydra is a beautiful, car free island just south of the Saronic gulf. Leonard Cohen and Melina Mercourie to name but two famous people had houses on the island. The flying cat journey took 40 minutes and we arrived in the heart of Hydra town on an overcast afternoon. The harbour is tiny and ferries and super yachts jostle for room amongst the fishing boats, so it’s much better to come by ferry. The town is delightful with colourful houses, steep streets and steps, peaceful tavernas as well as tourist shops, boutique hotels and donkeys carrying luggage and anything else that needs transported. It’s blissful without the noise and fumes of car and motorbike engines.



Hydra harbour

We found a lovely taverna for lunch where Sandra sampled the zucchini fritters and I had stuffed tomatoes. The sun came out and we had a great walk along the northern coast to another couple of fishing villages. A gin and tonic in the shade just ended the trip perfectly!



Hydra houses

While we were off enjoying ourselves, Andy had been doing battle with the Cruising tax problem. The Cruising Association we belong to had been a fantastic resource but we heard locally that the best place to pay the tax was the post office, so Andy went there bright and early the next morning. Sandra left on the flying Dolphin to Piraeus , to catch her flight later in the day and we got laundry and shopping done, ready for off again.

We spent the next few days going to Ermioni, Porto Heli, sailing round round Spetsai and revisiting Astros, before arriving here in Leonidhion.

This is such a lovely place and even better when the harbour is not full of charters and flotillas, although the local shops and tavernas probably don’t think so! We’ve stayed here for several nights waiting to see what the weather will do further south, as our friend Paul is arriving to Kalamata on 4th June. The wind is forecast strong W for the next week and Cape Malea just south of here is not advisable in strong W winds, so we have decided to pick Paul up in Navplion instead. Navplion is north of here and Andy is going to hire a car to pick Paul up and then we will sail back to Kalamata with him .

And hurray the Cruising tax has been paid and officially acknowledged !! Just as well, as the Port Police wanted to see the tax along with all the other paper work when we arrived in Leonidhion.



Breakfast with the Red Arrows (30th April-6th May 2019)

It’s been quite an exciting week since I arrived on Vaila on the 30th of April. Andy had been out for 2 weeks already, doing the major jobs, which luckily left me mostly cleaning and tidying and remembering where things go.
Launch went smoothly on Saturday morning at 7am in a flat calm and we motored over to the anchorage off Eritria on Evia in a rising wind and cloud. Despite a strong easterly wind we were reasonably sheltered there but the forecast for the next day was awful, with wind expected to swing to the south and get very strong. This is the worst direction for that anchorage.
Saturday night was reasonable but we decided to head to the breakwater just after breakfast on Sunday, as the wind was rising fast. One other boat was there already and they helped us come alongside. The wind was still blowing easterly so we were pinned against the concrete pier grinding our fenders against the wall. We managed to get the fenderboard (our plank) between fenders and wall which helped and later we commandeered an old tyre from the fishing quay . We helped the other boat and put multiple lines out ourselves. A tense day waiting for the wind to swing southerly, which it did eventually at 2pm and then to drop, which it did about 6pm. We registered 25 knots over the deck but the ferries stopped briefly so it must have been force 8 (34-40 knots ) at that point!!

The joys of Mediterranean sailing early in the season. It’s not all sunshine, swimming and tavernas! I’ve not even been for a swim yet as the water is only 14 degrees and it’s jellyfish time.

Today is a much nicer day. We had multiple fly pasts by the Red Arrows while we were having breakfast. It was so spectacular watching them twist and turn in formation. They came right over several times at only 100m or so above the quay. Such skill. They are here every year at this time to practice and take part in an airshow in Athens and we had a grandstand view of them here.

After breakfast we walked into town and had a coffee in the welcome sunshine and visited the local museum . The museum was lovely and just a nice small size, with artifacts from local excavations. It told you that Evia island was central to the spread of the Greek civilisation and the mixing of eastern and western cultures. They had sophisticated pottery, jewellery, houses and temples and luckily documented everything.

We are heading south tomorrow as the forecast looks more settled and my friend Sandra arrives on the 14th so we need to be at the pick up point by then.

The Storms (Sunday23rd September – Thursday 4th October)

Well, this has certainly been an eventful 10 days. We did not manage to get through the bridge at Khalkis as planned on the 23rd September and we had two storms to contend with. We got through the storms unscathed but decidedly weary!
Having left Orei on the 22nd September, we anchored overnight in a bay on the west side of Evia island and then headed down towards the tiny harbour of Limni (Lat 38 deg, 07’N, Long 023 deg,19′ E). We were lucky to witness a few feeding frenzies on the way, with big Tuna leaping out of the water chasing smaller fish. Gulls, terns and shearwaters were tucking in. Unfortunately no dolphins to be seen but the show went on for about 15 mins, which is rare.
We were exceedingly lucky, as there were a couple of spaces in Limni harbour and we slotted in behind the sea wall, glad to be in the shelter for the forecast Meltemi (a strong NE/NW wind that can blow for several days at a time). Little did we know that we would be in Limni for 4 nights!


Looking down at Limni harbour

Limni is a lovely wee place, with the usual higgledy-piggledy streets and brightly painted shutters and Bougainvillea and jasmine flowering again after the recent rain. We enjoyed exploring the wee town and walking up the tiny chapel on the hill to get a lovely view. The people on the two Dutch boats behind us in the harbour were really friendly and we spent a few evenings having drinks and laughter and good chats on each others boats. We were all sitting out the Meltemi until conditions improved.





Vaila in Limni, the calm before the storm!

The wind howled, the waves smashed against the breakwater, but we were fine inside and were all eagerly watching the weather forecasts. Everyone had their own favourite forecasts but all the forecasts were already predicting a “Medicane” (not a proper meteorological term) that was building over the west of Greece and causing havoc in the Ionian islands. Very strong winds were associated with this storm which was caused by the cold air flooding south (because the jet stream had kinked south) hitting the warm waters of the Med (25-29deg C).
On Wednesday 26th Andy and I cycled down the small coastal road south from Limni. The meltemi winds were producing horrendous conditions south of Limni, with winds flying down from the high ground and spray being whipped up into vortexes. Not a day to be out.



The meltemi with Katabatic winds coming down from the high land

It was an interesting bike ride though as there was mining here previously with mine workings and aerial runways still visible.


Old mine workings now a swanky resort.

There was a lot of wooden terracing, trying to encourage the trees to regenerate after a fire two years ago. The rock on the coast road was mudstone and very friable, with previous rock falls visible. We got back to Vaila to find that our wind anemometer from the top of the mast had been blown off and smashed!
By Friday 28th, the Medicane prediction was that it would stay south between Crete and mainland Greece and head east to Turkey, so we decided that we could leave to try to get through the bridge at Khalkis (Lat 38 deg, 28′ N, Long 023 deg, 35′ E). The wind was still very strong first thing, so we waited a couple of hours till it eased a bit before leaving.


The skipper at the beginning of the passage to Khalkis….still calm!


We motored with a tiny scrap of genoa up and could see that sea conditions up ahead were not great. We had 20 miles to go so pushed towards Khalkis. The seas got increasingly rough and confused as we got to the higher headlands. Whitecaps were being blown off by the screaming wind. Vortex of water were being formed. It was probably lucky our wind gauge was broken, as conditions looked the same as we had seen from our bike ride a couple of days previously but this time we were in it!! These were the worst conditions we have ever been out in.

Four other boats were in view all slogging though the same conditions. Vaila was great though and Andy did a magnificent job on the helm. I only managed 10 minutes of relief duty as it was very hard to control the boat in those seas. We got covered in warm sea water from the waves but the air was cold. We had our wellies and waterproofs on! Not quite what you think of as Mediterranean sailing!!
As we approached the lower lying ground near Khalkis, the wind thankfully eased and by the time we got to the quayside in the town it was very benign.


Approaching Khalkis

The crews from the other boats (all bigger than us) came to see that we were OK and were telling us that the wind they measured was 40+knots with gusts of 50-60 knots! Phew!!! Andy went off the see the port authority and pay the €35 for the bridge transit and I tidied up a bit down below. Luckily the storm had not damaged anything and the tiny bit of genoa we had had out had survived.
The bridge was due to open at 1130 that night, so we had time to cook tea and eat. This is a small bridge which connects the mainland of Greece with Evia and the bridge deck slides to open up to let ships and yachts through, but only once in 24 hours and at night. There is a strong current/tide so bridge opening times change daily. The port authority called all the yachts on the radio about 10 minuted before opening at 11.30pm telling us to prepare the boat. Then we had to wait for a freighter to go through first before we all fell into line behind. As soon as we were through, we anchored in the large bay just south of the bridge along with about 5 other boats and we were glad to get to bed.
We had hoped to head off down to Eritrea on Evia the next day ( 29th September), but the forecast had changed and the “Medicane” had decided to curl north to come over the southern part of Evia, so we stayed put for that day and the next.


Winds were crazy and rain was torrential. The howling wind made us feel tense but the anchor alarm at least meant we could get some sleep. It was not comfortable though as the strong gusts made the whole boat shake. We did not go outside except for Andy who had to go out for 10 minutes to retie the dinghy cover to stop it flying away!

Thankfully, the wind began to ease after 2200 on the 30th Sept and we had a better night’s sleep. We awoke to calm seas and little wind so set off to the boatyard. Our plotter decided to stop working but we had detailed charts on the tablet. The first couple of miles were buoyed channel for the big boats as it’s quire shallow, then it was pretty straightforward. The water was chocolate brown and full of bits of branches and other debris washed down by the storm.
We were glad to arrive off the boatyard and tie on to the buoy. We got the message that we would be hauled out later that afternoon and the trailer came down about an hour later to haul us out. We were glad to be on dry land at last.


Photos above of typical haul out on a sledge pulled by land-rover . Not Vaila as we were already on the hard. 
Now we are winterising the boat and packing up, ready for flying home on Sat 6th Oct. We heard that there had been a landslide into Limni harbour the day after we left! It’s certainly been a memorable season and added to our experience, but hopefully we will not have to face another “Medicane” too soon. Oh, and Andy fixed the plotter by doing a ‘factory reset’ courtesy of the Internet!

Rocking, rolling and racing!

We sailed south from Volos (lat 39 deg, 21′ N, long 022 deg, 57′ E) on the 6th of September and explored the SE corner of the gulf, anchoring in a large bay just south of the village of Milina. There used to be a sunsail base there but they pulled out 4 years ago and now there are just lots of moorings. We did manage to find a space to anchor and had a quiet night. It was so nice to be away from the bustle of Volos town.


Milina harbour, gulf of Volos

We headed over to the tiny harbour of Milina ( lat 39 deg, 09′ N, long 023 deg, 13′ E) the next day and found a space on the quayside. It’s a very small place with room for only about 10 yachts. The village seems to be a quiet holiday destination for German and British tourists.

We met a Scottish woman and her husband who run a charter business in Milina. They used to run the Sunsail base and have lived in Greece for 20 years. Christine and Andy now run A and C yachting Milina and they were both very busy turning their two 45 foot charter yachts round for the next clients. It appears that they don’t have a lot of time for sailing themselves these days, however they invited us to their yearly regatta the next day. It was for the prestigious trophy called the “String Cup” very reminiscent of a ladies thong made of metal!!


The “String Cup” which we failed to win!

Regatta day dawned with little wind. The race start was 2pm and we were hoping the wind would pick up, but it was not to be! About 20 boats of all shapes and sizes were taking part and jockeying for position on the start line in hardly any wind. We limped across in the middle of the fleet but quickly overtook a lot of the boats with great helming skills from the skipper in the fierce 5 knot wind!!

We were actually the third boat round the island and on to the down wind leg and even managed to fly the Cruising chute for about half an hour, but the wind died completely and by 6pm we decided to start the engine. It was all a good laugh and we headed off to eat at one of the Tavernas listening to a jazz band playing on the harbour side.

We had 2 more nights anchoring on the west side of the gulf of Volos which were fairly windy nights. We were entertained by flocks of storks flying over, heading for the wetland area inland. Then we headed over to Orei at the north end of Evia island ( lat 38 deg, 56’n, long 23 deg, 05′ E) to stock up with food and water. There was no room on the north quay but we managed to come alongside on the south pier. Unfortunately we could only stay there 1 night as Sailing Holidays flotillas use this pier 2 days a week. So a very quick turn around doing shopping, defrosting the fridge and filling up the tanks with water. Andy also had to go up the mast to fix a broken block for the lazy jacks (which stop the sail from spilling out when the sail comes down) and replace broken sail slides.


View from 3/4 up the mast!

We were ready to leave the next day as planned and headed over to Skiathos in a 15-20 knot wind giving us some great sailing on a close reach. We anchored in the large bay of Koukounaries on the south side. It was a busy place during the day, with tripper boats, jet skis, water-skiing, and several large hotels ashore. Luckily, it all quietened down at night and we had a great sleep after a few disturbed nights.
We sailed into Skiathos town on the 14 Sept but decided not to stay, as the town quay was pretty full and the main road and tavernas are directly behind the quayside. The harbour also has the added delight of being on the flight path for Skiathos airport, which means you can almost see the pilots faces from the boats on the quayside!



Skiathos town

We prefer Skopelos, so headed over to the wee harbour of Neo Klima, where we had been earlier this year ( lat 39 deg, 022′ N, long 23 deg, 38’e). It was much busier now than it had been in May, with a lot of apartments full and the beach with sun loungers out, but we still found it a delightful place and were pleased to stay for a few nights.


Approaching Neo Klima, Skopelos

Having the beach right there was a definite plus point. We met a lovely British couple, Lynn and Bill from Pied a Mer, who were telling us about the sailing rally they joined to the Dardanelles and the Black Sea. They said it was a fascinating experience but not one they would repeat!
After a couple of lovely days in Neo Klima, the wind got up and made life difficult with severe gusts coming down the mountains and blowing boats sideways.

Everyone had to add extra lines and we had to move alongside as our anchor did not seem secure (Andy dived down and found that the anchor shackle was sticking and so the anchor had not dug in fully). Luckily we managed to move with help from 2 other boats. It was a tense day with wind howling down the mountains.
The long range forecast for the next couple of weeks did not look good, so we abandoned plans to go south via Skiros and we decided to take the inside Evia channel which is more sheltered.
We returned to Orei on the 18 September to stock up with food and water again and to top up the batteries. The sail over was pretty wild, as it was gusting 25 knots as we left Neo Klima, but we were on a reach and had rigged the staysail, so we had staysail, reefed jib and reefed main up and were flying along at 7.2 knots at one point (with Petra helming)! The wind strength dropped to 15-20 knots and Vaila romped along between 5-6 knots.


Orei harbour- a sheltered corner.

We met up with Lynn and Bill again in Orei and spent a couple of lovely evenings with them.



Bull statue from 4th century BC found in Orei harbour


Sarcophagus, orei


Andy and I also got the bikes out and cycled along the coast. There are wetlands just behind the beach in Orei, so lots of reedbeds, butterflies, birds, but also mosquitos and horse flies! At one point we came across a terrapin crossing the dirt track. Luckily it got across ok and plopped into the pond on the other side. This bit of the coast looked like it was going to be developed but it never got finished, with a lot of half started properties around.

An angler set up multiple rods right next to Vaila every morning in Orei. He arrived about 5am in the dark and fished until 8am or so, with varied success! Two mornings we were woken by small fish flapping on the deck. It sounded so loud from inside our cabin!
Today (22nd September) we have started our trip down the Evia channel. It was a lovely day but not much wind until this evening. We saw flying fish and even hit a real tidal race. We are now anchored in a small bay and thankfully the wind has dropped. Unfortunately there are a few ‘fried egg ‘ jellyfish passing in the current, so swimming is a bit limited. We plan to go though the bridge at Khalkis on Monday night. It’s a swing bridge over the narrows and only opens at night. The Evia channel is very tidal so the opening times vary. On Monday night the bridge opens at 0330, so we hope to get a couple of good sleeps before the night passage.


Voyage to Volos (28th August -6th September)


We’ve had our first week back on Vaila and already covered 200 miles! We arrived in Thessaloniki late on the 28th August with our friend Trina. Vaila was fine in her berth after our 10 week trip home, so all we needed to do was stock up with food, fill up with water and then we set off the following afternoon for an overnight trip to Panagia in the Sporades.



The shipping lane from Thessaloniki was quiet and although there was some wind it was on the nose, so we motor sailed nearly the whole way. It was an uneventful passage with a full moon rising near midnight making the stars recede. Andy and I took 3 hour watches and Trina sat up till the small hours, enjoying the novelty of being on a small boat sailing at night.
The beautiful northern anchorage in Panagia was almost empty so we had our choice of anchor spot when we arrived 11am. We spent a lazy day swimming, reading and recovering from a long night.


Tea in Panagia

As the day wore on more yachts arrived but there was plenty of room for everyone. Unfortunately, some “fried egg” jelly fish (they really do look like fried eggs and are about 30 cm across), were drifting into the anchorage. These are stingers, so no late swim for us. We enjoyed a BBQ in the evening and some bubbly for “arrivals” followed by a long sleep during a calm night.
We woke feeling refreshed, and Trina had a swim with me on jelly fish patrol! Then we headed out of our anchorage. As we approached the entrance we realised how windy it was, with waves crashing against the rocks on either side of the narrow entrance. The engine had to work hard to get through the rough stuff but we got sails up and turned round the corner into the lee of the island and made good progress. It was a lovely sail down the channel between Alonissos and Peristera but we had to put the engine on again to get into Skopelos town where we came stern-to onto the quayside.


Approaching Skopelos Town

Two familiar faces greeted us and helped us with our stern lines (Sarah and David from Shearwater, who had been at the same boatyard as us last winter).

We spent the late afternoon wandering around Skopelos town and finding a trip to take Trina and I round the island and to the chapel of Agios Ionnanis (which featured in Mamma Mia) for the next day.Then we found a great spot for dinner in the back streets well away from the busy front.

Trina and I had an early start on the 1st September as our minibus tour started at 0815. There were only 10 of us and we had a lovely drive up the west coast with our guide, Despima, telling us about the history of the island. The Sporades were really out of the main trade routes but were often subject to pirate raids, so most of the towns are high up the hillsides. It’s only recently that the the coastal harbours been developed.


Chapel of Agios Ionnanis

The chapel on the rock is really iconic and spectacular (as anyone who has seen Mamma Mia will know). There are nearly 200 steps cut into the rock to take you up and thankfully, the upper steep sections now have handrails.

The view from the top was beautiful, looking over the cliffs with crystal clear water below. The inside of the chapel was tiny, with a wooden ceiling painted blue, lots of icons and and lit tapers in a central trough. The scenes from the film inside the “chapel” were not filmed here, but in a villa on Skopolos.

There were a few devout Greeks on our trip who were kissing the icons and lighting candles. The chapel is dedicated to St John the Baptist and was founded by fishermen in the 17th century according to legend.

We left the chapel at about 10am and we were glad we had arrived earlier, as it had been cooler and we were the first visitors of the day. We drove back down the road and stopped at Kastani beach where we spent the afternoon blissfully lazying on sunbeds and swimming. The beach was busy and there was some music playing from the beach bar but it wasn’t too loud and we had a great afternoon.

We got back to Vaila in the late afternoon, stopping for an ice cream on the way. The skipper had filled up Vaila with diesel and water and had also managed to have coffee with Sarah and David and friends while we were away, so we didn’t feel too guilty! The trip would not have been his choice anyway!
After a much needed cup of tea, we headed up the steps to our favourite sunset bar at the top of the hill. We had to gate crash a baptism going on at the tiny chapel half way up, as the steps went past there and the extended family were sitting there waiting for the ceremony to finish. Trina loved the view but unfortunately not the house wine, after the delicious freshly squeezed orange, which was a Retsina style. Neither of us drank much of it! You win some, you lose some. There were some amazing hawkmoths feeding on the flowers. Some Humming bird hawkmoths and other species. They really were the size of humming birds and expertly sucked the nectar with their long proboscis while hovering.


Sunset drinks, Skopelos

We had dinner back at Olivo, where we had eaten the previous night and it was just as good. We managed to get a table in the garden area this time.

We left Skopelos town on the 2nd September and sailed west towards the mainland in a good breeze, which allowed us to sail most of the way. We were now heading into new waters for us. We passed Skiathos which did not look that inviting, as the planes approach and take off directly over the harbour. We anchored for the night in a little bay called Andriami with only a few houses ashore. “Sailing Holidays” were already there directing about 12 flotilla boats in, but we managed to anchor in the middle and there was plenty of room in the end.
A gorgeous bay with clear water and friendly people on the flotilla boats. One kind guy lent Trina his paddle board to try out and she managed really well.


Trina on the paddleboard

Another BBQ in the evening and another bottle of fizz, but unfortunately this one had been shaken up on the crossing and caused a fountain!! We went to bed reasonably content though, despite our anchor not being that well dug in to the hard mud (on inspection by skipper), but there was no wind.


Before the fizz fountain!

Trina and I managed a swim before breakfast and we set off after to sail the 30 miles to Volos. There was no wind so we had to motor into the gulf and up to Nisos Pithou, where we stopped for lunch and more swimming. The islands were gorgeous, with red sandstone cliffs and the water was the warmest yet at 27.8 deg C and quite clear. Absolute bliss.


The wind got up from the south after lunch and we then managed to sail all the way to Volos town. We caught a tantalising glimpse of some dolphins chasing tuna on the way, but the dolphins were not up for playing!

We berthed on the long breakwater close to a 200 foot superyacht “Forever” from Malta. We got settled and wandered into town to find the bus station, as Trina was going back to Thessaloniki the next day to catch her flight home. Volos seems like a lovely city. It’s a transport hub with big commercial key, ferries to the islands and bus and train connections. The Argo started from here, according to legend (Jason and the Argonauts and the golden fleece). There is a replica of the Argo on the town quay.

It was a long, hot walk along the waterfront, but we found the bus station and enjoyed taking in the ambience of this part of the city. The promenade was closed to traffic and full of bars, cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops. We had a lovely dinner later on the front and enjoyed the buzz of the city. An organ grinder was walking up and down the prom, a violinist was busking and Chinese ladies were selling balloons with flashing light tails. Lots of families were out enjoying the cool of the evening.


Trina left on the bus yesterday (5th September) and Andy and I are back to just us two. We were expecting our friend Paul to come out but he has had to cancel. So, we got laundry done, did a big shop and got ready to go yesterday, but unfortunately the wind is so strong this morning that we are pinned to quayside until it drops later this afternoon. We are in no hurry though so that’s not a problem.

Mount Athos and the Monks (30th May-15th June 2018)

I am sitting here in Thesoloniki marina writing this in a tropical downpour, with thunder and sunshine and 25 degrees C at 0930! We have certainly had mixed weather in the last few weeks.


Rain in Thessaloniki marina

We left Skopolos town again on the 30th May after doing the usual chores and meeting some lovely people. We were even invited to a full moon dinner at one of the Tavernas on the front. It was a very civilised affair with lovely food and good company, watching the moon rise above the hills.
Our sail to Panagia the next day was extremely frustrating. What should have been a pleasant 20 mile sail turned into 40 miles of thrash, as the wind and current were both against us and forced us to go the long way round. Vaila’s engine is not strong enough to bash through the nasty steep waves you get in the Med and motoring is very uncomfortable. So sailing a longer way round is often a better option.
The next day was much better and we made it to Halkidiki and a lovely, quiet anchorage just off Papadhia island, on the west side of the middle finger (Sithonia); lat 40deg 00’n, long 023 deg 49′ E. It was a quiet night and a lovely morning listening to terns, song birds and a hoopoe ashore, and watching cormorants and gulls. So we stayed there the whole day and a fellow cruising association member also appeared later in his yacht Carina.

The next few days were spent cruising round the gulf, exploring wee anchorages on the east side of the Sithonia peninsula (the middle finger of Halkidiki). The whole area is really delightful, with granite rocks and beautiful sandy beaches and good anchorages. It’s a holiday paradise for Greeks and a few Germans, Americans and Brits that have discovered this area. Luckily there are only small resorts and not the massive hotel blocks elsewhere in the Med. Of course this beautiful place comes with the addition of motorboats and jet skis as people want to get out on the water. Luckily at this time of year there are not so many of them and the the motorboat drivers were generally very considerate in the anchorages (unlike the Balearics or Italy)!



Lovely sailing with the Cruising chute up

We found another beautiful anchorage called Kristos on Dhiaporos island (lat 40 deg 13’N, long 023deg 47′ E). It reminded us of Puilladobhrain near Oban. luckily, it was very sheltered as there were a few thunderstorms and strong winds.


Kristos anchorage, Vaila on the right

We decided to try a wee marina round the corner the next day, so we could get water and some shopping. It was not a good experience. According to our information, there were lazy lines on each berth, however they were buoyed a long way from the pontoon and it was not at all obvious which ones were for visitors. No response on Vhf and no one appeared, so we picked one buoy up then realised it was a mooring. When we picked up another buoy, a very irate harbour master eventually appeared, shouted in Greek and a few words of English and gesticulated to another buoy. When we did come in, he at least took our stern lines. Just as well it was not windy. Our next door neighbour, a young Greek man on a charter motor cruiser was lovely and extremely helpful, which made up for the bad arrival. He was the charter skipper and was waiting on the next clients arriving. He apologised for the harbour master and offered to take us to a bigger town for shopping and gas, as he was going to the bank. We gratefully accepted his offer and tried to thank him with some cans of beer later but he refused.
We left early the next morning (but we managed to leave a wee thank you present on his back step before he noticed), as we had a long day ahead going down the west side of the Akti peninsula (the easternmost finger of Halkidiki). The southern half of this peninsula, which includes 8000 foot Mount Athos, is a holy site with more than 20 orthodox monasteries. No women are allowed to visit and you are not allowed to sail within a mile of the coast if a woman is on board! It’s a fascinating place and so anachronistic in the 21st century! I had wanted to see it for a while. The motor past, in calm seas, was amazing. Most of the monasteries have been there for over 1000 years. Until recently, even female animals were banned. There are hardly any roads and supplies come in by boat and the Monks grow quite a lot of food themselves. Some of the monasteries were very extensive with some modern additions. The southernmost ones, clinging on to the steep slopes of Mount Athos were like something from Tibet, with buildings high on the sheer rocks and cantilevered wooden balconies. We managed to get to within half a mile off shore without a patrol boat chasing us off!!


One of the biggest monastery complexes, Russian Orthodox.






The bulk of Mount Athos in the distance

We then had a good sail with a few dolphins for company until the wind dropped just as we were rounding the S cape of Sithonia. We were getting tired and went in to the sheltered anchorage at Porto Koufo, with its amazing entrance through the cliffs.


Approaching Porto Koufo…is there really an entrance there?


There’s the entrance!

Unfortunately we were quite late (5pm) and all good anchor spots were taken, so, reluctantly we pressed on for Papadhia island, another hour away. We knew it was good holding if we could see the sand patches and we managed to anchor ok in a big swell. Luckily the swell subsided and we did have a calm night but we were pretty weary.
The next morning was calm and I even managed a swim. We set off after breakfast and the wind was just right for a lovely sail, but that soon changed! We were just rounding the southern point of the Kassandra peninsula when we heard a loud ” knocking” on the forward hull. We had obviously caught something!! Luckily the wind was good and we could continue to sail to get away from the cliffs of the point. We couldn’t use the engine in case we got the prop fouled. Once we had more sea room, Andy had the good idea of coming into the wind and sailing backwards to try to dislodge whatever it was that was caught. I watched at the bows and was relieved to see a large sheet of submerged bubble wrap float off about 6 feet under water. Unfortunately, the knocking continued so we did the same manoeuvre again, and this time a plastic water bottle popped up. But we still didn’t know what else was down there. The forecast was for the wind to increase and the waves were already quite big. So the best option was for us to drop the sails and for Andy to go into the water (it was only 200m deep!) to inspect the prop and hull. Until we knew there was no rope or other debris, we would be unable to use our engine! So that’s what he did (what a hero!), well tied on with me holding the rope and watching. Vaila was side on to the waves so rolling quite a lot. Luckily there was no further debris, so we could get going, knowing we could safely use the engine.

After that little incident, we were very glad to get into the very swanky marina at Sani Resort (lat 40deg, 06’n, long 023deg 18’E). We received a fantastic service here, with a marinero coming out to meet us in a rib in the very shallow and narrow entrance channel and helping us into our berth. Finger pontoons too so no anchor or lazy line needed. The marina is part of a spa resort with hotels and apartments and fantastic facilities. The lovely showers were much appreciated and we had a drink ashore to celebrate. The only downside was that there was loud music till late…but you can’t have everything! Ear plugs come in handy.


In the swanky Sani marina

Two days later we arrived in Thessaloniki marina. We were glad to have arrived at our destination, as we were both quite weary. This last 6weeks has seen us sailing 600 miles and exploring this beautiful part of Northern Greece. We’ve met lovely people and seen wonderful and interesting places. We’ve also experienced quite a lot of thunderstorms, broken nights and our floating rubbish incident, which could have been so much worse. After we heard of our friends bad luck with lobster pots in the Scottish Islands Peaks Race, we had only just been saying that we had never been caught up with floating rubbish, even when sailing down the coast of Portugal at night! We should have known better!!
We’ve explored a bit of Thessaloniki and surroundings in the last couple of days. It’s a busy and vibrant city with lots of students from the university of Aristotle (he was born nearby). Despite its bloody and tragic history, Thessaloniki feels like a happy place. The surrounding hills are covered in oak and beech woods and have many walking trails.


The white tower, no longer white


Thessaloniki waterfront from the white tower




We are now tidying and cleaning the boat, as Vaila will stay here safely tucked up in the marina when we go home on the 19th June. We are looking forward to seeing family and friends again, particularly our wee grand daughter, Emma. We are also very excited to go to Ross and Zofia’s wedding which is just 4 days after we get home.