On our last day on Andros we hired a car from a lovely Greek lady who had Scottish friends. She very proudly showed off her pronunciation of “Gourock” in a strong Glaswegian accent! It’s amazing who you meet. This same lady told us to be sure to see the waterfalls at Pithara, which surprised us, as the whole island is so dry.
We drove round Andros and it was certainly more barren than Evia.
There were terraces and ruined Bothies everywhere though, so in the old days they must have been irrigated and cultivated. Now there are just some scrawny fat tailed sheep and goats. Lots of new houses are springing up, presumably based on tourism. It’s not far to Athens. The houses here are box like and flat roofed, typical of the Cyclades islands.
We found the path leading to the “waterfalls” so headed along under lovely oak and alder trees. There were lizards basking everywhere and birds singing in the trees and shrubs. Andy got a surprise when 2 snakes slithered over his sandals. It did give us both a fright and we made sure to stamp our feet and make more noise after that. We looked them up later and think they were large whip snakes which live on lizards and are common in Greece ( and luckily non venomous).
The “waterfalls” were more of a trickle with pools but enough water for frogs and tadpoles and lovely and shady. In an island where there is little water no wonder these are a tourist attraction.
We stopped for lunch in Andros town which is positioned in an inlet on the north east coast and is a spectacular place. A large reef runs out from the beach with a Venetian fort and lighthouse on it.
The town is the main town of the island and there are many big buildings dating back to Venetian merchant days. We were the only people in the taverna at 1230 but they were happy to serve us with any of 4 dishes that they had. As usual they brought a menu but then told you what they actually have, which is a small fraction of what’s on the menu at this time of year. It’s always delicious though and freshly cooked. The menu expands as the tourist season progresses. We had a table by the window, looking over the beach with the surf pounding in and an amazing view.
Our last evening in Batsi was spent with Ginny and Karl from “Leoni”, a beautiful wooden boat they had sailed from Devon. A lovely couple and another coincidence, as Karl had lived for some time near Linlithgow and his children had gone to school there.
We set off early at 7am the next morning as we had over 40 miles to go north. We hoped for a good southerly wind but there wasn’t really enough to sail, so we ended up motoring all the way and dropped anchor off the beach in Petries ( lat38 deg, 25′ N, long 024 deg, 12′ E), on the east coast of Evia, at 4pm after 48 miles. We had a swim and a BBQ but the wind got up and we had to do anchor watch till midnight when it calmed down thankfully.
The next day we left Petries and headed over to the island of Skyros. We had a fantastic sail across and even had a great dolphin encounter with a pod of about 10 individuals, who played in the bow wave and were jumping out. They stayed with us for about 5 minutes as we were doing about 5.5 knots. We only saw one other sail and a small freighter in the whole trip of 33miles. We berthed in Linaria (lat 38 deg, 50′ N, 24deg,32’E) on Skyros. We had read that Linaria is a great harbour and it didn’t disappoint. Sakis the harbour master came out to meet us and there were lazy lines to the quay so we did not need to use the anchor. Electricity and water were included in the price and everything was lovely and clean. Toilets, showers and washing machines, hurray.
We even had a “library” on the quayside with books in about 7 languages, swaps from passing sailors.
Linaria town is very small but the ferry comes in daily and everything revolves round the ferry times. It’s just like the Hebrides really or any other island community.
We ended up staying 3 nights in Linaria as the weather forecast was not great and it was good to get washing done and explore a bit of the island.
We took the local bus into Skyros town at 1345 the next day, as the early bus went at 0745 to take kids to school. So our bus had the returning pupils who were being dropped off at their homes. An interesting round trip of the back roads and scenery. Skyros town sits perched on the side of a rocky outcrop with tiny winding streets mostly too narrow for cars.
It’s obviously a touristy place in the season but in mid May it was completely dead! Most hotels and shops were shut, so we walked around to see the views for a couple of hours, managed to find 1 bar open for a cool drink and returned to Linaria by taxi as the only return bus was 1915 in time to meet the incoming late ferry. The evening ferry is welcomed to the tune of “Also Search Zarathustra ” from the film “2001, a Space Odyssey” blaring out of the harbour loudspeakers, very dramatic!
The following day we walked the 2 miles to the wetland reserve (the only one in the Sporades). Surprisingly, it really was a wetland, with brackish water, reed beds, rushes and lots of shrubs, birds, butterflies, herons and Egrets. The main claim to fame is that there is a good population of Eleanoras falcons on Skyros and we managed to see a couple. They are a bit like kestrels but much darker and hunt young songbirds! While walking back along the road we saw 4 eleanoras hunting across the cliffs. There were also some Skyrian horses, a rare breed that are small like ponies.
We left Skyros on 18th May and sailed/motored to the small island of Skantzoura (lat 39 deg, 04′ N, 024 deg, 07E) which lies half way between Skyros and the northern Sporades. We anchored in a tiny bay along with a German boat and a small fishing boat. It was thankfully a quiet evening wind wise and we had a swim, ate and went to bed.
The next morning was Saturday, so we listened to “Out of Doors” on Radio Scotland which for us was 0830- 1000, very civilised. Then we set off to sail NW to Peristera island. We managed to sail for a couple of hours but then the wind dropped, we had an adverse current and the waves were really lumpy, stopping Vaila in the water, so nothing for it but to chug on the motor. It was very uncomfortable and we were glad to get into a sheltered anchorage at the S end of Peristera after 5 hours and 20 miles.It was really sheltered and completely deserted apart from a fishing caique. There were a couple of summer houses on the shore but no one was home. Bliss.
Our next island was Panagia where we anchored in a sheltered bay on the north end after a great sail across (lat 39 deg,20′ N, long 024 deg, 04′ E). The entrance is only 83m wide with cliffs and rocks either side, so quite dramatic. The water was more green and lagoon like but it was a sheltered place, so good to sit out forecast strong wings (again)! A couple of other yachts were also in and some local fishing boats. The gulls were round begging, probably because the fishermen or yachties feed them. It’s the first time we have seen this in Greece. Lots of goats were roaming the shore and Scops owls calling at night. A peaceful place, although we did wake at 3am to rain and rising wind, so had to get up to shut hatches and check our position. It was pitch black, so almost impossible to see anything but we did have the anchor alert on the GPS, which meant we could try to sleep.
The only downside to this anchorage was that there was no mobile reception. Andy rowed ashore and climbed up the hill the next day, to try to get an up to date weather forecast while I stayed on Vaila, as we were anchored and it was still pretty windy. The forecast was for winds to ease which luckily they did, so we had a more peaceful night.
We left Panagia on 22nd May. The surf was breaking at the entrance to the lagoon where it was shallow, so it was a relief to get out into open water. The islands north of Panagia are all part of the national marine park so off limits. They are very high, with sheer cliffs and that morning they were capped with cloud.
It was a good NE wind to start with and we managed to sail for a couple of hours SW towards Alonissos, however the wind dropped and the seas were very confused, so we ended up motoring down the channel between Alonissos and Peristera. Lots of boats were coming north, heading towards the horrible seas but mostly unaware of them, as it was very calm in the channel.
We had a look at a couple of harbours on Alonissos but they were all very small and a lot of swell was coming in making the boats bounce around a lot, so we pushed on to Skopolos town (lat 39 deg, 07′ N, long 023deg, 44′ E). It was very impressive coming towards Skopolos as there are big cliffs and rugged islands. Skopolos is where some of Mama Mia was filmed and it’s a beautiful and wooded island.
We stayed 3 nights in Skopolos town on the new quay. It was pretty busy but water and electricity were available by getting an electronic key from the kiosk on the pier. Our batteries did not need topping up so we only used the water. Andy fitted a new solar panel (with 2x the capacity of the old ones) and 2 new batteries before we launched and this has made all the difference. Skopolos town is quite large with houses spilling down the hillside and many tavernas. It’s a bustling place and has good shopping too. It was no great hardship to stay there and we met some lovely people too.
We are now in a small harbour on the SW side of Skopolos called Neo Klima. The wind is very strong, a real meltemi from the NE. It’s a real wee holiday place with lots of apartments, which are currently mostly empty but fill up during the season. There are nice beaches and a backdrop of wooded hills. Although it’s a holiday town, there is a real community here. There is a primary school, and fishing boats go out every day and nets are piled on the pier. There is also an traditional fishing boat being done up just beside the harbour.
We had a 12km cycle over a hilly road today south from Neo Klima. A welcome coffee stop at a lovely beach before returning back to Vaila for lunch. Nice views across to another small anchorage at Panoramas too.
We arrived here in Neo Klima on Thursday 24th May and we will stay here till tomorrow (Monday 28th) when the wind is due to ease a bit. We need to go back to Skopolos town to get diesel, provisions and a new gas bottle and we are then heading for the three fingers of Halkidiki as we need to be in Thesoloniki before the 19th June, when we fly home.