Here we are (to abuse that opening again, sorry GC) on 30th April 2003 at 37degrees too far North of the equator (evidenced by the compass which has a distinct lean to the north pole after spending most of its life steering “Star of the West” around the Southern hemisphere). We are anchored on the Greek Is of Agonthonisi without the sound of the wind (which seems to be have been shrieking for a lifetime) or any other noise or evidence of human habitation but ourselves (Little Dee (Daniel), Ratna and me, content (as the weather allows us at the moment) in our little world but as far from family, friends and people as I think we want to be (there’s only the sound of goat bells on the hillsides above our solitary little anchorage). We left the security of the Kemer marina 3 weeks ago on 9th April after arriving in Turkey on 13th Feb, to two months of freezing cold with the heater on 24hrs a day, after the previous 2 months in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand of sensible warmth.
Its 0300hrs in the morning, (dark as pitch outside) an hour I have been accustomed to waking lately due to checking whether we are going to be dashed on some rocks or jetty wall by unfriendly elements or planning the day ahead and trying to stay warm with a cup of tea or coffee (the last 3 months back in Turkey seem to have been non stop howling winds with bone chilling cold and a few days (like the last 2) of quiet between the gales. We are destined further north tomorrow (we have a favourable weather forecast for the next few days) to the Marina at Kusadaci in Turkey where we will spend approximately 5-10days trying to get Ratna a visa for the EU at the Italian Embassy at Izmir (further north again but by road this time). An Indonesian passport is a liability at these troubled times of Iraq wars, terror threats and now SARS fears and our success in this will very much determine our ongoing plans in the Mediterranean as to if we stay to visit Italy and other EU countries or just visit Croatia and Slovenia (which aren’t EU yet) and continue through the others unofficially (like now on this Greek Is) and return “Star of the West” to the Pacific and Asia and family and old friends as quickly as possible (to more user friendly environments, the next few days will tell !!!???).
In this our 2nd season in the Med, I have been grossly guilty once again of mis-planning as with our return in Feb after 3 months here there is still no sign of summer and time seems to have been one of survival with long periods snuggled up inside the cabin or working inside on maintenance jobs with short periods of outside work or recreation. Local friends say there is going to be no spring here this year and the winter gales will soon be replaced by the heat of summer and the influx of hoards of tourists from the north.
Little Dee was 7 months old the other day and continues to be a pleasure for his Mum and ageing Dad (Grandson Scotty was so apt when he said Grandad was lucky to be a father, reference to age I hope) and that at my age I am able to revisit the wonders of growing and learning and take a more active part in children this time around without the pressures of career and lost opportunities through Separation in a previous life.
“Star of the West” has been aptly modified to accommodate its new crewmember who has adjusted so well to the different environments over his 7 months (New Zealand and Indonesia in his first three months) and taken to boat life (“Mustang Sally” and “Anjuna”, friends boats in Thailand and Malaysia in January and February and now “Star of the West”. Watching him at close quarters is a precious reminder that all of us were this small, innocent, trusting and so easily pleased once upon a time, hard to believe. A Belgian friend of ours has recently related that his Grandfather was 72 when his dad was born and his grandmom was only 19 at the time and they had his uncle after that, so for those of you that are lonely and lost (You know who I’m referring to) there’s still time to rediscover the joys of life.
New sailing friends still in anchorages in Turkey and those en-route who we have shared some anchorages whilst sheltering from the elements (Roger on “Valerie Jean” and Daniel, Kusrinah, Vita on “Waioflaif”) are somewhere in the adjacent 100 miles as we pursue our individual agendas but the most of you seem a world away so hopefully we’ll get some emails of news of your activities to bring you all a bit closer.
Its now the 4th May and we are just recovering from a traumatic but (touch wood) a successful trip to the Italian Consulate in Izmir. We departed in the morning of 30th April from our solitary, peaceful little anchorage at Agathonisi and arrived in Kusadasi a bustling coastal town in the afternoon and have replenished supplies, have onboard internet facilities and arranged a hire car for the 2nd May trip to the Consulate as 1st May was a holiday. A helpful Marina Client representative drove us to Izmir, a distance of about 90km departing 0645am on Friday morning 2nd May and arriving just after 0800hrs expecting that we would present our case to a helpful Consulate official and be out of there pronto. We were dressed in our best clothes and had all the relevant supporting documentation, ships papers, Turkish ships transit papers, Ratna’s Turkish residents permit, Dani’s birth certificate, all my financial records for the last five years, laptop in case they wanted to see photos of boat etc., not to mention Dani’s pushchair, spare pampers, food, drinks etc.
WELL!!!! We got in a queue at the foyer and waited one and quarter hours for the office to open and when the security officials said ok were caught in the rush up the stairs to the 3rd floor office. Having been passed by numerous people whilst we carried the pushchair and all the bags up the stairs we arrived at the still closed Consulate door behind a sea of bods, however a wise woman who obviously new the ropes pointed out where we should have been in the queue and we worked our way forward to our position. This was a most fortunate move as when we entered we were given number 15, the second to last slot and everyone behind was turned away and told to come back after the weekend for no doubt another scramble. WELL only 15-16 of us that shouldn’t take too long!!! Silly us, there were 2 officials behind glass with little slots for papers to be passed and questions to be answered through which had everyone bent down talking thru the little slot rather than seldom used microphones. It turned out that most of the people in the queue were drivers or assistants of agents who then proceeded to arrive throughout the morning in well timed procession with bundles of applications!!!!, no wonder they only allowed 16 individuals to be heard, there were probably hundreds of cases.
After 4 hours of waiting and 15minutes after the official lunch closure, after no offers from others for an earlier review, increasing agitation and blood pressure by both me and the Marina representative who in several attempts with his Turkish colleagues behind the glass to see some reason realized that his compatriots were in control here and weren’t going to be dictated to, we were finally beckoned forward. The key to Ratna’s application was the Turkish residency that we obtained for her after arrival when we were told by the Greek and Italian Consulates in Ankara and Izmir that she needed or she would have to go back and apply from NZ. The official stated in very good english that he was the one who advised me on the phone and took one look at the sheave of papers briefly viewing the Resident Permit and financials and said that it wasn’t a real Resident permit and that nobody would understand the financial reports therefore the application couldn’t be heard. WELL!!! After an outburst from me that left steam, sweat and spittle on the glass, basically saying that we were not leaving without a proper hearing after having obliged with earlier directives and traveled 372 nautical miles by sea and 90 kms by road with a small baby, he said we could come back at 1500hrs and he would speak to the head of the Visa section but no promises.
We descended to the outside world in a state of despair and sent the Marina representative back in the hire car as he was already half a day behind a mountain of work back in Kusadasi. He wanted to take the bus but saw reason when I said there was no way I could find my way out of a city of 6 million and back to Kusadasi driving a left hand drive car on the wrong side of the road and that we would take the bus. We were desperate for some food and water, though Dani was content, as he had had juice and Mom’s left bosom in the car on the way (Her right bosom was enlarging alarmingly and becoming rock hard as there was no privacy in the cramped Visa office for bosom feeding). He had been good all morning sleeping on and off in the pushchair and only crying when strange faces wanted to approach him (he’s going thru that stage again after seeing mostly only our faces in our solitary little world over the past 3 weeks). We visited an adjacent bus agent to establish departure times and located a nearby hotel café and ordered some lunch whilst I hobbled a couple of km’s to find a Turkcell office to buy a topup card for the cellphone so I could ring the British Consul and whoever for some much needed support. My toes in my black boots, (which I hadn’t worn for goodness how long but were chosen ahead of my boat shoes as being more affluent), were by now doubled under and the nails were bent backwards. I returned to the café crippled, in time only to gulp down a chicken salad between phone calls and then return to the 3rd floor Visa office across the square. I had spoken to the British Consul in Antalya who said there was no way they could deny a hearing, that the visa was a valid Resident visa and that I should advise them that I had spoken to her and the Police if needed. Despite her assurances I wasn’t confident and had plans to conduct a sit in protest or other less mentionable acts if we didn’t get to present our case!!!
Back on the third floor at 1500hrs there was another rush of bods not for applications apparently but for issuing of visas from previous days, but the officious clerk (now looking more relaxed after lunch) advised us that the head of the Visa section would hear our application shortly after she had finished a meeting. We waited another hour when an elderly woman (not being a spring chicken myself, she must have been in her mid’70’s), with glasses perched on her considerable chest still showing ample cleavage, came through and was briefed by the visa clerk with raised arms, glances and finger pointing in our direction. I was beckoned over and passed the application under the glass screen again with my feet screaming and my voice about to do the same, when a pleasant voice in Italian English apologized profusely that we had waited so long and the BOY should have been more understanding. After a glance thru the application, establishing that we were a traveling family with 2 members having passports allowing automatic entry to the EU, our own means of transport and accommodation, Ratna’s visa’s to Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, she said that Ratna would be granted the usual 3 month multiple entry visa that could be collected Monday or Tuesday and apologized once again for putting the bambino through so much. I would have hugged and kissed her if there wasn’t the glass screen between us and thanked her profusely with watery eyes.
We left the office tired but elated, got a shuttle bus from the bus agent to a bus terminal that resembled Changi Airport in Singapore onto a large bus and set off down a six lane highway without hardly an engine sound with attendants with water and perfume offered and with swollen disfigured feet out of horrible shoes and mom’s right bosom shrinking with relief with Dani latched as she and Dani finally had a bit of space to themselves. We arrived back at Kusadasi at 1900 hrs after a very relaxing bus ride for the cost of the equivalent of 5 Euro’s (10 NZ dollars), the hire car had cost us 30 Euros plus 20 Euro’s fuel for an outward nerve-racking journey (via a shortcut the Marina man had said) but had achieved its purpose in getting us to the Consulate in time. Our Marina man collected us at the Kusadasi bus terminal and dropped us off at the stern of “Star of the West”, we were gratefully “home” and with a Supermarket 20 paces behind I purchased a couple of fruit juices and oh yes some welcome local beer for us to watch the sunset and ponder the days/months build up.
With a piece of paper indicating the application was accepted we realised that we had removed this sword that had been hanging over us for 10 months since we first tried to enter Greece last year in June without realizing there were no visa applications considered on entry to EU countries for Indonesian passport holders. I had spoken to a Consulate official in Wellington when we were back in New Zealand last year requesting an application form. I was advised that as we weren’t traveling immediately it was better to apply from Turkey closer to the date only to find on arrival back here that a Resident permit was mandatory. The Kemer marina staff did wonders for us in organizing the Resident permit for Ratna and need a gold medal. We now feel we are not illegal unwanted travellers anymore and that having traveled this far we can at continue beyond the wonders of Turkey and see and experience in a relaxed and unharassed way some of the places we have read about since childhood.
Well folks you’ve all got your own busy spheres but if you have read through this far thank you, it’s not much of a cruising log but an experience we needed to share. We plan to move west from here through Greece to Croatia and Slovenia over the next couple of months with destination Venice in Italy where we may bus it overland to EU places north if we still have some friends there. Remember it would be great if any of you looking for a change of scenery to drop in and share our highs and lows and new experiences. Tentative end of season plans are to return “Star of the West” through Greece to Kemer Turkey in September for the northern winter while we enjoy more of a southern summer, then come back here next April with the intention of commencing the journey back to the Pacific. There’s still a lot of water to pass under the keel between then and now, there is a hint that summer has arrived (I’m hesitant to get too confident after the past three months of storms, chill and drear) but with little D out of his long johns, us out of our long pants and socks, hatches open with hot windless days over the past week, that’s how it appears at this point.
We are still in Kusadasi, son's birthday's, today Mark's 7th May and Andrew's on 9th, hope you got our ems and wishes. We’re starting to feel real permanent residents after 6 days in the one spot. Rang the Italian Embassy yesterday and today to enquire if Ratna’s visa is ready and they were a bit more talkative today saying nothing yet, the computer in Rome hasn’t responded, Indonesian Passports are a rarity in this part of the world and obviously they are waiting for a criminal profile!! Hopefully that doesn’t mean we have to wait forever or we might be pressed to doing something that does precipitate a jail term. So whilst we have internet onboard you get another edition of “cruising bits and pieces” when we get that visa we’ll be out of here and island hopping so communications will be minimal, now we’ve got an attentive audience you’ll be bombarded!! Sorry about that but you are all we’ve got to talk to! Not quite true but almost, and thank you very much for the response to the first email wow it was great to know somewhere out there on the airwaves some people are actually tuned in. We’d better be careful we don’t over do it or there won’t be time for cruising but many thanks again for the replies we got!!! Fantastic, when we thought we were alone and had the whole of the EU against us!! We’re not quite alone, plenty of strangers and friendly cruisies, the average age here as in most of the spots we’ve stopped at must be close to 65-70 as people decide that the only way to stay young and mobile is to jump on a yacht. Theory is fine if you stay in a marina and cruise only here in summer and spend the winter months in Thailand on a beach chair, otherwise the stresses and strains of casting the ropes aside and moving are enough to push us onto the next spot. When we turned up at a bbq organized by the marina for potential participants in the EMYR rally (Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally) last night everyone made a beeline for little Dee, WELL he put on his best performance and screamed at every new face much to our embarrassment. He did the same a month or so back after being used to our faces only until he got used to the marina traffic. Anyway between screams we managed conversation with people we had met in Langkawi Malaysia in 1998. They were crewing onboard “Cowrie Dancer” a 50’ Swan who was also participating in the Raja Muda regatta from Port Kelang to Langkawi and now are onboard their own vessel. They remembered us being successful in one way or another but little did they know the brain bashing we did two handed on the 3 overnight races in unseasonable headwinds trying to compete against another classic class competitor “Jenzminc” who took the honours though launched in 1995, whilst our other real classic class contenders (“Anjuna”, “Marambaia” and “Jabalina”, skippered by ageing owners opted for alternative easier means for getting north!!! We also met another Indonesian, Helen from Medan but residing in the UK and like Ratna standing out in the crowd with their noses that are wider than the usual Turkish hooter (not to mention my own). They carried on like long lost friends though typically like everyone away from home, probably wouldn’t have spared a moment if back on home turf. The day was spent doing boat chores and periodically adjusting the bow rope and chain, which keeps us off the concrete jetty behind us. Its nice having a walk on walk off facility which here in the Mediterranean means usually tying stern or bow to so you can climb on or off easily. Wouldn’t work anywhere else in the world where tidal fluctuations are too great but here with minuscule tide its great until the wind starts to blow you backwards onto hard bits, So last night the wind came up at its usual 0300hrs and the gangplank was making grating noises which demanded that it had to be put on board and during the day the wind veered to the south west and south (a rarity, which would have been great for heading west) so lines had to be constantly adjusted (where’s that quarter acre section and lawnmower!!). In between adjustments, a number of tasks on the “to do list” were completed (sanded and painted staysail boom, foredeck area, cockpit lockers, anchor well etc, tightened anchor brace). A ‘to do list” on board is normally an A4 sheet of paper which you fill up quickly with items you think of whilst daydreaming or when something goes awry or amiss. Items are slowly and gradually crossed off until the page has 90% of the items crossed off (the hard ones are always left to last) then you start a fresh sheet that fills as quickly as the last one. Its an exercise that you have to enjoy as part of boating and something which would be quite useful in keeping the quarter acre section squared away but on a boat it tends to be more mandatory because if you don’t attend to the items you get lost or sink!!! Anyway it kept our minds off what the Italian Officials were pondering over so we felt as though we earned our wee beer and fruit juice at the end of the day. Managed to get a tel phone call through to NZ to wish son Mark Happy Birthday (31 on 7th May) although it was before 0600hrs in NZ and I think he wished he’d had a few more zzz’s and was still 30. I’m off to make sure Ratna hasn’t commandeered the whole bunk and that little Dee isn’t snoring, see u later
Another day of boat chores planned until just after 0900hrs a phone call from the Italian Consulate in Izmir advising we could come and pick up Ratna’s passport with visa!! What a joy after waiting 11days since our ordeal there on 2nd May, a pity that it was a day late to avoid Dani’s and my Turkish visa issues which expired on the 12th and which required us to do a clearance out yesterday morning and we sailed up and down the coast for about 5 hours with Ratna as a stowaway (she’s got Turkish residency) until we returned back to the marina and Turkey again in the afternoon!! We quickly organized a rental car and off we shot to take in the ruins of Ephesus on the way before our appointment 100kms away at 1500hrs in Izmir. At Ephesus, parked the car in the bottom car park and while seeking transportation to the top entrance got hijacked by a local tout who said he would take us up in his car as long as we visited (with no obligation to buy) either a carpet, leather or jewelry factory which were “beside” the top entrance. Ratna chose the latter which was miles away from the top entrance and after wandering thru came out the back to find he had fled having gained whatever he did from the exercise. Fortunately the factory had vehicles which then took us back about 5kms to the top entrance where we wheeled little D’s 4 wheel drive pushchair down the old Roman roads just managing to keep the wheels intact. Ephesus and the surrounding hills have some of the most impressive and complete ruins in Turkey and it is where St John brought St Mary after the crucifixion of Jesus and both died here. We survived the trip back to the car park and then set off for Izmir driving on what I regard as the wrong side of the road from the passengers position. No problem when the road is straight and there are no intersections or circles but when u reach one of them, potential chaos awaits and all hell can break loose!! Managed to get on the superhighway and breezed along into Izmir until we ran out of road and a road worker indicated we should have turned off several turnoffs ago!! A helpful fellow motorist however recognized our trouble and we followed him cross-country until we got back on the road system where I recognized the way from our bus trip out at the beginning of the month. Found parking not too far from the Consulate and I joined the queue outside the Consulate waiting for the doors to open at 1500hrs. Not being so green this time held my ground in about position number three and was the first to receive a passport back and was out of there like a shot to join Ratna and lil D at a shore side restaurant for late lunch with the precious document. Our return to Kusadasi was somewhat longer than planned as I cleverly decided we should return via the airport road, which appeared shorter, but got lost in Izmir until we stumbled into a NATO base and we were directed westwards out of the city. This took us back via the Cesme highway then the coast so it was quite picturesque and arrived back at the Marina where our friendly marina man Gem was waiting for the passport to complete our check out of Turkey for our early morning departure the next day at 0600hrs. Unfortunately he had not so cleverly organized the disconnecting of our power and telephone, which meant I couldn’t broadcast the good news of our departure to the world!! We stocked up at the supermarket for the next 3 weeks and then stowed things away said a few goodbyes and fell into bed happy but tired campers at about midnight.
Departed 0600hrs arrived 1450hrs motored all the way in flat seas and windless conditions. Roger on “Valerie Jean” arrived from further south down Leros at 1700hrs at our preplanned rendezvous and we compared notes of the past 2 weeks where we last had anchored together on the Greek Island of Simi on 28th April. Roger had had an interesting time with the Greek authorities in Rhodes when he was taking his friends back to catch their flight to the UK. The Authorities weren’t very impressed that he had been in Greek waters for three weeks and hadn’t checked in but he managed to escape beatings or fines by putting on his usual charm, raised eyebrows and shoulders creating an air of ignorance and finally checked in. We were going to use the excuse of bad weather or no wind or small baby or enroute to Italy if confronted as our reason for not checking in, as we still had a couple of weeks planned in the Aegean islands before heading towards Athens our Greek check in destination.
Anchored off so wouldn’t be bothered by Port Police or Coastguard and pottered around with Valerie Jean. A few swims in the still cold water, filled 60 litres of diesel in Patmos where we were exposed to our first Chora or village on the hill and a very impressive monastery perched up high. Seemingly a lot of the Aegean Islands had their residences and places of worship placed on high spots so they could see the pirates or suchlike approaching from a distance and could take appropriate defensive action. Had a brilliant 3 hour sail in company with VJ from Patmos south to Levitha our first real sail since a little jolly on 21st April when sailing from Fethiye to the Gocek bays with Waioflaif. Levitha is a small, low, windswept rocky place with stunted bushes, a goat farm and farmhouse cum taverna and a couple of fishing boats. The little anchorage however had moorings as a source of income and we picked up one of those (6 Euros for 1 or more nights), which looked quite secure compared to the one we dragged out to deep water at Bozuk Buku in Turkey during a blow on 25th April. There were 7 yachts sheltering on the night of the 17th May with increasing NW winds shrieking in the rigging. VJ headed back SE on the morning of 18th to take advantage of the favourable wind direction to meet guests arriving in Gocek Turkey from the UK later in the month and we stayed another night in the hope that the wind would swing north and make our trip west a bit easier. Our plans were to head SW to Thira to see the infamous volcano and town perched on the edge before heading north through the Islands to Athens then the Corinth Canal and eventually out west to Italy and Croatia/ Slovenia.
Holy Moly, we departed 0600hrs to make as much distance west before the normal increase in wind velocity as the day warmed up, our destination either Amorgos to the west, Astipalaia to the south or even Thira to the southwest. Once out of our sheltered little anchorage and the lee of the Island we found ourselves in a miserable rough sea with wind out of the west at 25-30kts so the closer Amorgos was out of the question and it was looking like Astipalaia. We were reefed down with a little bit of head sail and staysail and were crashing and bashing our way SW and not very happy with lil D and Mum (very green) tucked up in the aft cabin and waves depositing their contents onto our deck and into the cockpit. The wind mercifully swung to the north as the day progressed and as we were hooting along we continued to Thira and at 1730hrs were tied up in a little marina in the south of Thira amongst fishing boats and about 10 other yachts. We had sailed most of the way and if had carried on for a 24hour run could have broken some records!! The marina was not officially open and had no real facilities but was a nice refuge and we had a good sleep tied up alongside the concrete pier with Swedish yacht “Ebi” who had also wintered in Kemer marina Turkey.
Thira was populated before 2000BC with a fairly advanced civilization but this was abruptly ended about 1400BC with a massive eruption. Thira is the largest active caldera in the Med and one of the largest in the world, five times the size of Krakatoa west of Java and the eruption is estimated to have been 3 times bigger than the Krakatoa eruption, this latter one causing loss of more than 36,000 lives in 1883 due to tidal waves. It has been inferred that Thira had a similar effect on surrounding civilization in the Eastern Med and that Thira is in fact the fabled island of Atlantis. We caught the 1030 bus to Thira town armed with boat and personal documents to show we were trying to check in if we encountered Officialdom however that didn’t happen and we enjoyed the trip across the island and the views from a little café overlooking the caldera. We caught the last bus back to the marina after a bit of supermarket reprovisioning, content in our first little on land touristy sortie in Greece. Bus cost 1.40 Euro each but we seemed to spend 91 Euro with food and provisions!!
Departed Thira 0630hrs and motored north through the caldera, we have now traversed Krakatoa and Thira, there’s not many yachts or boats that can claim that distinction. Once north out of the caldera and the suphur smell we sailed 12 miles north to a bay south of Ios and I had a couple of swims in the still frigid water where we had the anchorage to ourselves and an almost deserted beach area with resorts and hotels still unoccupied with the yet to arrive summer tourists. All the modern Greek architecture seems very boxy with buildings with flat roofs and small square windows and all painted white. A swell started to come into the bay from the south during the day and late in the afternoon we shifted to another bay up the west coast however at 0320hrs on 22nd the wind was picking up from the south and we were rolling badly in the swell and decided to make a quick exit in the dark, leaving the other little yacht in the bay to dance to their own tune. Once clear of the Islands of Ios and Sikonos we enjoyed a sail north until we anchored in a cleft in the rocks in a place called Kastro on the east coast of Sifnos. A breakfast/brunch stop only as it was a tight rocky little anchorage exposed to the east with an apparent ancient village on the hill but we didn’t launch the dinghy to take the walk and continued sailing north to Serifos. We anchored off the little town of Livadhi with its Chora on the hill and its ferry jetty protecting us from any southerly swell. From Serifos we headed north again on the 23rd to Kithnos enjoying sailing in the lee of the island with novelty of using only the genoa in relatively flat water and gusty 15-20kt SW winds. The water between Serifos and Kithnos however wasn’t that flat and a few waves popped themselves into the cockpit from a couple of days of healthy SW winds. We anchored in a little natural harbour at Loutra on the east coast of Kithnos protected from the SW winds and swell. One yacht came in with his forestay all twisted and tied down evidence of getting caught in one of the gusts. Almost non stop overnight rain filled the dinghy considerably and we spent another quiet day at anchorage waiting for the weather to brighten before we headed off on the morning of the 25th to travel to Mainland Greece and our official check in. We past the Island of Kea in light winds and lots of shipping traffic both ferries and ships heading SE or NE. Lots of yachts also starting to appear after almost having the sea to ourselves, must be the start of summer at last. We arrived in Olympic marina at Lavrio 70km east of Athens at 1430hrs and checked in but as the Port Police had gone home for the day the office said I could do the formalities in Lavrio town tomorrow. Marina charges were 37 Euro per day (incl elect and water), twice the price of Turkey marinas and seemingly ½ the facilities and on our way back to the boat had a plate of mussels, a beer and an orange juice for 20 Euros, a total of 57 Euros spent within an hour of stepping on land, welcome to Europe, much more of this and I’ll be back at the pit face!!
Check in time, off to Lavrio town about 3kms away by Taxi at 0900hrs, a little apprehensive after our 12 days of not checking in whilst in Greek waters and the experience at the Italian Embassy in Izmir, so was armed with all sorts of answers to possible questions. What are u doing here u have an EU visa for entry into Italy not Greece etc etc.?, We were told by your Embassy in Turkey to apply to the Italian Embassy (because they were more likely to issue a visa) etc, etc. So fronted up at the Port Police Office and was shunted from office to office waiting and filling in forms without a question being asked as to where we had been and when we left Turkey and was then told to go to Immigration around the corner for passport clearance. Went there to a small old office with stationary ceiling fans and staff all smoking cigarettes and waited in a small queue behind some couples seemingly applying for work visas and a family doing the same. They looked at my paper from the Port Police and told me to go back there and get the correct one. So back to the Port Police who fortunately looked embarrassed and scratched their heads and filled in another form whilst copying info from some older document then I went back armed with that to Immigration. At the Immigration office was confronted with the scene of a screaming, wildly gesticulating officer trying to get a message across to the family (all dressed up in their best) that there was something missing in their application. I was getting used to Greece after Turkey that all this high drama didn’t necessarily mean dire consequences but was a bit apprehensive when I handed my documents across once again. They took them to an adjacent desk and computer and proceeded to assimilate the info and then it was back to the bosses desk who had dispatched the poor family at this stage where he filled in some more forms stamped them copious times and said ok back to the Port Police. Back at the Police Office had to stand around whilst staff were busy with a Norwegian chap who didn’t have the correct boat documents and was being threatened with all sorts of things in broken Greek/English whilst in another adjacent office there were sobs and wails from someone also out of favour with the Authorities! Finally the fellow who could speak English and obviously acting as a client representative for the beaurocrats came thru and said ok only another few documents and all will be completed. Well we finally got thru that and they emptied my pockets of 107 Euros for the exercise and issued me with a transit log to be presented at any Ports we called at along the way. So there we are all legal and a relatively smooth entry after only about 3 hours!! I was so pleased that went to an adjacent Café and had a beer which when I left they couldn’t find any change for my 50 Euro note so told me it was on the house!! I wandered around the town, which was very compact and hired a car for our trip to Athens to visit Uncle Jimmy’s resting place, then rang the NZ Consul for directions to the Commonwealth War Cemetery and went back to the marina to pick up lil D and Ratna to do a bit of tikki touring. Lavrio is on the SE tip of mainland Greece and we drove to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion but there were too many tourist buses there so decided to do a test drive towards Athens along the coast for the following days trip. We ended up going about 2/3 of the way to Athens but it was a very pleasant drive right on the coast and we saw trees and more trees and houses with sloping roofs and flowers, a very different Greece to the barren windswept one in the Aegean Islands we had become used to since last year. Greece might not be too bad after all!!?? Jury is still out on the locals though.
0830hrs, Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery Phaleron Athens, a humbling experience. Finding the headstone 25383 LCpl. NJA Smyth NZ Infantry 19th April 1941 24 yrs, brought on tears from an unexpected surge of emotion. Here were Uncle Jimmy’s young earthly remains, frozen in time with thousands of other Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives in Greece between 1941 and 1945. It was brought home how privileged I was to have had the equivalent of two of his lifetimes and how insignificant our recent visa and weather issues were compared to the horrors that youthful lives were faced with in those WW II years, so far from family and home. Uncle Jimmy who passed on before my arrival on this planet, was often referred to and on numerous occasions I had to explain where the FJL in my official name came from when I was called Kim, “ J for James after Mum’s brother who was killed in the War”. A minute here or a metre there, the difference between life or death, a myriad of emotions were ignited about WW II and more recent tragedies thru accident or illness in family and friends, of the unfairness of it for the individual and the impact of premature loss on those left to ponder. Whew, we retired across the road to a marina Café for brunch, emotionally moved and very glad and honoured to have been able to make the trip. We traveled back to Lavrio without wanting to visit central Athens and the Acropolis and taking on the traffic and tour buses, that would be stretching our luck after our ease of finding our way the 65kms here this morning. At Lavrio we reprovisioned in the local Supermarket exchanged gas bottles, checked out with the Port Police and then back to the marina to fill water tanks and diesel. We headed off at 1525hrs covering quickly the few miles to an anchorage at Sounion behind the peninsula where the Temple of Poseidon is poised overlooking the sea and we caught our breath sharing the anchorage with three other yachts from different countries.
Departed 0700hrs and sailed/motor sailed most of the way with a NE breeze blowing fitfully. Anchored at the SW tip of Angistri which is very reminiscent of some of the beautiful anchorages in Turkey. I’ve been very critical of Greece in the ships log after the soft green Turkey (both country and occupants), with the windswept Aegean Islands however the last few days on mainland Greece and now here at Angistri there does appear to be some beauty. We shared the anchorage with one other yacht anchored a 100 mteres away and apart from a small marina development around to the West but hidden from us we had the place to ourselves and enjoyed the solitude.
We had planned to go to Epidhavrous on the Peloponnisos peninsula and travel inland to see what is supposed to be the best preserved amphitheatre to be found, however the barometer dropped markedly overnight with a depression forming north of Egypt and the wind came up from the north so we raised anchor at 0900hrs and decided to head for the Corinth Canal and out of the Aegean sea and into the Gulf of Corinth. Wind ended up on the nose so we motor sailed all the way to the Canal where we tied up alongside at 1310hrs just after a couple of east bound freighters had passed through so our timing was immaculate!! I went to the Control Tower, filled in a form and parted with 106 Euro, while Ratna and D guarded Star of the West, all taking about 20 minutes from arrival to start of the transit of the canal. The road bridge descended in front of us and a Dutch yacht and ourselves held up the traffic whilst the two yachts passed into the Canal. The ancients used to drag their ships over this isthmus joining the Peloponnisos peninsula with mainland Greece rather than travel the whole way round and Nero started excavations for a canal in his days with some Jewish labour but had to refocus on matters closer to home. The Canal was completed in 1893 3.2 miles long and 25m wide with cliffs reaching 76m at the highest point and is deemed one of the more expensive canals per mile in the world. Apart from the bridges which lower at each end to allow passage there are a number of road and rail bridges that cross above the canal so we had plenty of spectators watching our transit and who were amused at the lil Capn sitting in his chair in the cockpit. The transit took 35 minutes and we headed out into the Gulf of Corinth up to a little fishing village anchorage at Saranda as the marina at Corinth close by the western exit looked very windy.
30th, 32 miles, arrived Itea midday 30th after 5 hour motor/sail from Saranda. Not a very restful night at Saranda a little fishing village as we were disturbed by mosquito’s, gusts of wind off the surrounding mtns and the grating of the anchor chain on rocks which may have been the extension of the fishing harbour demolished during a winter storm. Sure enough the anchor was well stuck and had to drive Star forward under motor until something gave (fortunately the previous unmovable object as I didn’t fancy a dive in 15metres of still cold water). Managed a chat with Warren Batt on Mustang Sally who was on the 8188 sked at 0900 hrs, he has just come up the Red Sea this year and was enroute from Cyprus to Kemer, our favourite marina in Turkey. Itea is a modest little coastal town that has Iron ore mines in the background and snow on higher mountains and appears a pleasant enough spot and with the new marina we were able to tie alongside with only 7 other yachts here. A Danish chap who has based his yacht here over the past few seasons says the place is great as the Gulf of Corinth is like a lake and you can go sailing in the morning and be up on the mountains behind skiing in the afternoon. (ok if your home is where he comes from).
31st Early morning rise to catch the 0715 bus (a 25min ride) to Delphi and the Temple of Apollo which is apparently the most sacred and respected archaelogical site in Greece and according to the ancients Delphi was “the navel of the earth” or centre of the then known world. The ruins are perched on the side of a mountain and very impressive though carting the pushchair up and then down steps/stairs wasn’t much fun (lil D slept on the way down so it must have been a gentle trip). They must have been impressive in their day but have been plundered over the eons, Nero himself having removed 500 statues back to Rome!! Didn’t manage to time the return to coincide with the bus so caught a Taxi back to Itea and enjoyed the views past camping places with campervans and back thru the large Olive tree packed valley behind Itea. We reprovisioned in the Supermarket and sorted some long overdue emails before our departure tomorrow for a destination further along the Gulf of Corinth.